I know it’s kind of cliché but we all have seen a movie or TV program where the man takes off his wedding ring before going out for the evening, without his wife. I have known more than one married man, in my years traveling overnight on business that did it routinely. I’m sure they also tried to hide the telltale mark on their ring finger. Like many men, I put on a lot of weight after Cindy and I were married and it wasn’t long before the ring had to come off, before it had to be cut off. Also, like many men, I eventually lost much of the weight I put on and was able to wear my wedding band once again. Although I couldn’t wear it for nearly twenty years, the mark that it made never completely went away, it was always there as a reminder of my promise to Cindy and how fat I’d become.
In Matthew chapter ten, while giving instructions to the twelve as to their upcoming mission, Jesus says this, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven (vs. 21, 22).” By way of context, this statement or warning is preceded by Jesus telling the twelve not to be afraid, since there will be some who will try to stop them and even do them harm. It is followed by Jesus telling them that when some react violently against them, it is in accord with God’s will; that real peace will necessarily bring conflict because sin is the dominant force in this world, even among family members. Sin and the peace of Christ can not occupy the same space, so conflict is the natural outcome.
This is the same environment, the same world, which you and I are to go into and tell others about Christ. This sounds challenging and it is, but our responsibility is clear and unambiguous, we must go and tell, regardless of the cost. To put it in worldly terms, the reward is infinitely greater than the risk and we have much more to lose if we do not. Jesus, in verses twenty-one and twenty-two was removing any of the excuses He knew would be in the minds of the disciples when they received push back during their journey. If they yielded to their fears, they risked being like those who disowned or denied the Son of Man, ultimately to their destruction. Notice that I used the word “like” and not “as” those who disowned or denied the Son of Man. These men were not risking their eternal relationship with Christ, but would surely pay an earthly price for not moving out boldly and proclaiming Christ as Savior and King. The disciple’s salvation was secure; it was now time to demonstrate it by their faithfulness.
There is no better example of this than what both Peter and Judas did when confronted by temptation. Peter, after Jesus’ arrest, denied or disowned Christ, not once but three times. Yet, Jesus would forgive him and make him the “rock” upon which He would build His church. As for Judas, he could not deal with his act of betrayal and as a result would never enjoy the fullness of Christ’s peace here on earth. I submit that in both instances, both Peter and Judas were secure in their salvation because of their acceptance of God’s gift of grace and both are with the Father for eternity.
We all fail to live up to the expectations of God and that’s the whole point. That’s why Jesus was sent by His Father, because we are under the influence of a world permanently stained by sin and can never measure up to God’s standards. Although we can never erase the stain or the effects of sin, it can be covered by the blood of Christ for those who accept His grace. This is the miracle that we are to go and tell others about. If we refuse, we risk living a life without the peace and joy that is ours to enjoy.
We can take off the ring but the mark is always there. The beauty of a relationship with Christ is that we are allowed to fail, in fact it is humanly impossible not to. All we need to do is to say, “I’m sorry” and we can put the ring back on, the ring that symbolizes our relationship with Christ. In response we are then to go and tell others about the uniqueness of a relationship with Christ and that no matter how badly we fail Him, we are always welcomed back and can wear the ring once again.
Tool #411 Jesus’ final instructions to Peter were repeated three times “Feed my sheep.” The same number of times Peter had disowned him.