Sunday, September 6, 2020

Peter, the Shameless Witness


by Audrey Frank @AudreyCFrank

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:12-13).

Peter was a shameless witness who boldly declared who Jesus was. How did this rugged, coarse-mouthed fisherman become so fearlessly eloquent?

Shame is an identity issue. It causes people to hide, to cower, to shrink from doing great things. 

Writers are acquainted with shame. The editor says, “Your manuscript is not up to standard. Rejected.” A critic writes a scathing review of a piece we labored over for months. We internalize this shame and believe we are not up to standard. We wonder if we bring any value to the craft. If we should just hide. Quit.

I see no shame in the Peter of Acts 4. How do we become like Peter, the shameless witness who boldly and with great clarity declared who Jesus was?

Peter’s boldness, his lack of shame, was a product of being with Jesus. Peter knew who he was, no matter what the shot-callers, acceptance-bestowers, and rule-enforcers called him. Peter knew what was true about him at the core, and he learned this by spending time with Jesus.

If anyone had a track record to inspire shame, it was Peter.

One day Jesus explained to the disciples that He must suffer many things, be killed, and on the third day be raised to life. Hearing this incredible news, Peter dared to rebuke and refute Jesus, resulting in Jesus’s stern response, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).

In an ironic twist worthy of a bestseller, Peter famously denied Jesus three times (John 18:17, 25, 27) after swearing his allegiance to Him on the eve of His death (John 13:37).

It would have been natural for Peter to believe Shame’s supreme lie: I am bad. There is something intrinsically, irreparably wrong with me.

It’s important here to note the difference between guilt and shame: 

Guilt says I did something bad. (Yes, this is bad grammar. I’m guilty.)

Shame says I am bad. (Using bad grammar when it serves one’s purposes does not make one a bad writer.)

Guilt is a good thing. It alerts us when we have done something wrong. Peter had definitely done things wrong. So have we.

But when our guilt translates to shame, when wrong behavior becomes wrong identity, we need help. We are trapped in an identity crisis, and it will contaminate all that flows from us. Our writing, our message, our response to failure. Instead of growing through the rejection that we worked so hard to avoid, we are paralyzed by it, and it reinforces our false belief that we are bad. We may even give up.

How will we tell the world who Jesus is with boldness and clarity if we believe shame’s lie and give up entirely?

The first step toward being a shameless witness for Christ in our writing is to spend time with Jesus, listening and learning from Him who we are. And we are not bad. When God created man and woman, He declared His work good. God created every one of us with equal, immeasurable value. Sin has marred our souls and our relationship with God, but it has not changed the fact that we were created with priceless worth. And God has made a way through His Son Jesus for us to walk in that identity again. Through Jesus, we need not hang our heads in shame, believing there is no hope for us. There is mighty hope! Tenacious, never-giving-up-on-us, chasing-after-us hope.

In the days after Jesus’ resurrection, we see Hope chasing Peter. Hope compels him to run to the tomb, only to find it empty (John 20:3-7). Hope calls him out to the deep, rousing him before dawn to return to the boat where he spent so many significant hours with Jesus (John 21:1-3). His friends, painfully aware Peter was hurting, insisted on going with him. Several present that day had seen Jesus since the resurrection. Imagine the agony in Peter’s heart as he wondered why Jesus had not come to him yet. It would have been logical to conclude it was because he had failed Jesus and their relationship was permanently broken. 

As Peter and his friends took up the familiar nets, Jesus revealed Himself to them from the shore. The moment he perceives it is the Lord, Peter jumps into the water with his clothes on. 

He has not forgotten me! 

What mixture of fear and joy Peter must have felt as he half-ran, half-swam through the cold lake water to get to His Lord.

No, Jesus never forgot, not for one moment. With intention, gentleness, and power, He fixed His gaze on Peter. He would not leave this precious one in the grips of shame. What follows is a tender reinstatement, a full restoration of Peter’s identity. In the end, Peter is not only forgiven, his shame removed, he is reminded of his purpose. 

Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:19)

Peter rises from that sandy beach with peace. Clarity. Work to do.

This is the Peter we see standing before the rulers, declaring who Jesus is. This is the Peter who, through his shameless witness, bore evidence of having been with Jesus. His credentials or lack thereof were eclipsed in this greatest credential of all.

What do you believe about yourself, writer? Do you know what is true about you?

Here are just a few things that are true about you.

God, the one who made you, declares you good. (Genesis 1:31, Psalm 139:14)
God is your enough. (2 Corinthians 3:5, 2 Corinthians 9:8)
God calls you chosen, not rejected. (Isaiah 41:9-10)
When we follow Christ, we can trust God with our failures and successes. (Proverbs 16:9, Psalm 37:23-24, Lamentations 3:22-24)

Rise from this place and follow the Savior. He will make you a shameless witness to the world. 

Lord, show me who You say I am. Where shame has immobilized me set me free with Your Truth so that I may be a shameless witness for Jesus. Amen.

TWEETABLE

Audrey Frank is an author, speaker, and storyteller. The stories she shares are brave and true. They give voice to those whose words are silenced by shame, the hard things in life that don’t make sense, and the losses that leave us wondering if we will survive. Audrey and her family have spent over twenty years living and working among different cultures and world views, and she has found that God’s story of redemption spans every geography and culture. He is the God of Instead, giving honor instead of shame, gladness instead of mourning, hope instead of despair. Although she has three different degrees in communication and intercultural studies, Audrey’s greatest credential is that she is known and loved by the One who made her.

Audrey is the author of Covered Glory: The Face of Honor and Shame in the Muslim World (Harvest House Publishers)an outpouring of Audrey’s heart to introduce others to the God of Instead. Shame is not unique to the developing world, the plight of the women behind veils, young girls trafficked across borders; shame is lurking in hearts everywhere. Through powerful stories from women around the world, Covered Glory illuminates the power of the Gospel to remove shame, giving honor instead. Available at favorite booksellers: Barnes & Noble Books A MillionAmazon.

You can also find Audrey at www.audreyfrank.com, as well as on Twitter and Facebook

5 comments:

  1. What a great, powerful read for a Sunday morning before I attend Catholic Mass via the internet! Thank you Audrey for sharing.

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  2. My heart pounds with excitement. Knowing the difference between shame and guilt is important. Your sharing has made it clear. Thank you and blessings for sharing.

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  3. Audrey - exceptional clarification! Thank you

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  4. Your post is a beautiful reminder of who we are--and who we are not. Thank you!

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