Staying true to yourself … staying true to Jesus
Following the recent tragic death of Shane Warne, I heard a commentator eulogising about his life and his accomplishments, both on and off the field. Apart from lauding his incredible skills with a cricket ball, the commentator went on to say that one of the most important aspects of Warnie’s life was that he was always “true to himself”.
I spent some time reflecting on this statement. It seems that in so many ways this idea of “staying true to yourself” is increasingly being regarded as one of the highest virtues to aspire to in life.
As I have been reading through the Passion Narrative in Matthew’s gospel in recent weeks it strikes me that the Apostle Peter was one who was also determined to “stay true to himself”, that is his declared position as a follower of Jesus.
Remember how, following the Last Supper, Jesus says to his disciples, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me.” To which Peter responds, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will!” Not me, Lord! I’m your number one disciple. I know who I am, and I will always be true to myself! But, Jesus says, I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (Matthew 26:31-34).
We know how tragically the story played out, as Jesus was arrested there in the garden and dragged before the kangaroo court of the Sanhedrin. Three times throughout the course of that evening, as Peter was put on the spot, he would deny any knowledge of Jesus! And then suddenly the rooster crowed, and Peter remembered his boastful claims and he went outside and wept bitterly!
Peter, you were never called to stay true to yourself. You were called to stay true to Jesus! You can’t do this just through sheer determination. It is not a matter of staying true to the persona or image that you want to create around yourself. To stay true to Jesus requires something far more.
So, where did it come unglued for Peter? I would suggest that we go back to the garden, where Jesus asked his disciples to “watch’ with him. Yet, as we well recall, three times, Jesus returned only to find Peter and the other disciples sleeping! “Watch and pray” Jesus says, “so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Let me suggest that, if we are to know anything of what it is to “stay true to Jesus”, it will only happen as we first learn what it is to “watch and pray”. While prayer is all too often one of the first things to be set aside in the busyness of life and service for Jesus, prayer remains the key to our “staying true to Jesus”.
Peter Francis (Principal)