Thursday, July 26,2018
Men like sports. Some women do. Men are very competitive. Most have a burning desire to win. That competitive spirit is older than Methuselah. It goes all the way back to Genesis 4 when one brother killed another (Genesis 4:2-8). Eliminating the competition didn’t help the survivor win any prizes. But we see human nature being revealed!
Men being what they are, one wonders if there was a competitive spirit among the apostles? Andrew’s outstanding deed was telling his brother about the Messiah. When compared to Simon Peter, Andrew’s accomplishments come up short. Peter wrote two of the New Testament letters. Andrew wrote none. Right or wrong, Peter was always answering or challenging Jesus. Andrew did not. Jesus said to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” Jesus challenged Peter to “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Similar responses were never addressed to Andrew. Did he feel slighted? Was he ever burdened with a jealous streak? Inspiration doesn’t say.
Peter denied Jesus, Paul did not. Paul wrote thirteen of the New Testament letters. Peter only wrote two. Peter refused to obey the Lord’s command three times, Paul did not. Peter denied Jesus. Paul did not. Luke writes some about Peter’s activities, but most of the book of Acts is about Paul. Paul got in Peter’s face to correct him, but Peter never had to correct Paul. Did a competitive spirit ever find lodging in Peter’s thinking? Holy writ doesn’t say.
There are a lot of blank spaces in scripture where information is lacking. For example, in Acts 16:22, Paul and Silas had their clothes torn from their bodies before being beaten. Were they allowed to put on shreds of clothing afterwards? If not, they met the jailer’s wife in their Fruit of the Looms? Mel Gibson illustrated how terrible crucifixion was in his 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ. Yet, the viewing public did not see the complete humiliation the crucified suffered. That individual was nailed to the cross naked. Did they do that to Jesus? Scripture doesn’t reveal that information.
There are things written in our Bible that reveal human nature in motion, but not followed in detail. We do not know the extent of that behavior in those who are mentioned, but it could have followed a mutual course revealed in others. We may speculate about this nature being acted out fully, although it is not mentioned per se. For example, what was Peter’s reaction when Paul corrected him? We are not told. What is the usual reaction when someone gets in your face to “set you straight”? Did he repent right away? We are not told. How adamant was Peter when God told him to “kill and eat” (Acts 10:13)? He did refuse, didn’t he? Was his refusal just a meek whisper? Peter didn’t mind speaking up even when wrong (Matthew 26:33-35). He probably never thought he would be guilty of cursing and swearing to prove no relationship with Jesus (Matthew 26:74-75). He did though! We see human nature rising to the surface. As a side note, Peter’s denial could not be the unpardonable sin because he was forgiven!
Jesus called twelve men to be his disciples. They would be sent out to teach his good news. One of his apostles would have been a good accountant if not for his dishonesty (John 12:3-6). He returned his “blood” money, repented of betraying Jesus and admitted his wrongdoing. Then, in remorse, he hung himself. Didn’t he know forgiveness was possible? Some Christians today probably come close to manifesting Judas’ thought pattern. They see their imperfections, wave their white flag, and settle for hopelessness. Spiritual suicide is their reward. It is the flesh’s victory over the spirit!
Jesus’ teaching on turning “the other cheek” must have hit Matthew and Simon the zealot hard. In modern application, Matthew was a Trump type supporter and Simon hated everything Matthew stood for! Those two entered their discipleship without a good word for the other. Both were a thorn in the flesh of the other! “Forgiveness” was a foreign subject neither wished to discuss. How long did it take for their hatred and mistrust to develop into love and appreciation? Didn’t they go through that turmoil? The Bible doesn’t say.
When Peter returned to Jerusalem from visiting in a Gentile’s home, he was questioned by negative thinking members (Acts 11:1-3). Surely Peter knew from his own experience that others were not going to appreciate that visit? These individuals are identified as “those of the circumcision.” Paul and Barnabas later ran into these brethren, who Luke reveals as “the sect of the Pharisees who had believed” (Acts 15:5). These are the same believers who put fear in Peter, and he stopped fellowshipping Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:11-15). Didn’t he remember what he told Cornelius (Acts 10:34-35)? Apparently, this sect was in the church from Acts 2 until the destruction of Jerusalem. Even Jesus’ brother seems to be a party to it (Galatians 2:12). Yet, Luke nor anyone else spends time explaining why the church was “tolerant” of this party or sect. Paul corrected the Corinthian brethren over their division into four named parties (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Scripture doesn’t answer this question.
Human nature! It is good and bad. It can be helpful or hindering. It may build yet sink into brokenness. Although scripture doesn’t always reveal the full extent of that nature, we can see some of it in those who wrote the 27 books and some those writers dealt with. Application is our responsibility. Do the scriptures speak to correctly direct our human nature?
“You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:15-17