Course Corrections

Do you make mistakes? I do, and I don’t think I’m being presumptuous to say that you do also, since it is a part of the Bible’s teaching (see 1 John 1). The question, then, is how do we respond to correction. Take, for example, the case of Peter.

Peter has the mountain top experience of confessing to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Yet, when Jesus begins to teach about his death and resurrection, Peter is overconfident enough to rebuke Jesus. Jesus responds, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you are not intent on the things of God but on human things.” (See Matthew 16:13-23.) The words had to have hurt. Peter finds himself as the embodiment of the Tempter attempting to thwart God’s plans. Peter makes a course correction and embraces the things of God.

Peter weeps bitterly after denying Jesus three times. He had made the audacious boast that if everyone else falls away, he would never fall away. Peter claimed he would die with Jesus and never deny him. So after breakfast following the resurrection, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” (See John 21:15-17.) The three questions correspond to the three denials. In fact, Peter is grieved by being asked the third time. Gone is the bravado. When Jesus asks, “Do you love me more than these,” Peter answers with a simpler, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” With each affirmation of love, Jesus gives Peter a task: feed my lambs, shepherd my sheep, and feed by sheep. Peter makes a course correction and expresses his love for Jesus.

But despite Peter’s growth and display of great courage in the first persecution of the church, Peter is still capable of making a mistake. While in Antioch, Peter withdraws his table fellowship from Gentile Christians when certain men from James arrived on the scene (Galatians 2:11-14). The issue is table fellowship. Jews did not eat with Gentiles, and these Gentile Christians were not circumcised, so the traditions about table fellowship were wrongly upheld by some. What is striking about this is that Peter was the one who made the first Gentile convert and had to defend his actions in Jerusalem. Paul doesn’t give Peter’s response to correction, but I think given the rest of the New Testament, we can assume what it was. Peter makes a course correction and affirms the gospel as revealed by God.

Lead me not into temptation is, of course, our prayer. But when mistakes happen, may the destination to be with Christ be so important, that we humbly, quickly, and joyfully make the necessary course corrections.

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