Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

June 7, 2013

Why we need second chances

— — Do we get a do-over in life sometimes? That was the question discussed recently at my Bible study. We were talking about Peter and his second chance.

Most of us can relate to Peter — impulsive, emotional, curious and inconsistent. His love for Christ practically leaps off the pages of the Bible, but his loyalty was skittish.

While the captive Jesus was being questioned by Caiaphas, the high priest, Peter stood in the courtyard, warming himself by a fire. It was there he infamously denied knowing Jesus, denied being one of his followers. And he did it three times. And the cock crowed, just as Jesus said it would.

Yes, most of us can relate to Peter. But we discussed in our small group study how Peter got a second chance.

Again, he was gathered around a fire, this time built by the resurrected Christ who waited on shore for his disciples who’d been fishing. Jesus questioned Peter — three times. “Do you love me?” he asked. Peter said, “Yes, Lord” three times.

Different versions use different words but by the time Jesus asked a third time, Peter was “grieved” or “hurt.” We discussed in our group that it was almost as if Jesus was giving him three second chances to make up for his three denials. He gave him matching opportunities to say that, yes, he loved him after he had said, no, I don’t know him.

“I feel like I got a second chance,” said one woman, discussing her first marriage. She felt as though now, in her second marriage, she was getting the chance to “get it right.” She was getting the chance to follow Biblical teaching better, approaching it with greater spiritual wisdom and maturity. Both she and her husband felt this was a second chance in marriage and in their faith.

Other women around the table had also experienced second chances in various ways. Most of us feel that we face them nearly every day — as parents, spouses and friends. And we get second chances to be better people than we were yesterday and to live out our faith differently.

Rarely is the do-over an exact replica of the original. Peter didn’t get to go back and stand in that courtyard and answer those three questions differently. He answered instead a different question from Christ himself, knowing that Jesus knew he had denied him. I imagine that was far more frightening than standing in the courtyard with the strangers eying him suspiciously and questioning him accusingly.

It’s interesting to also imagine the people in the courtyard who questioned Peter seeing him again much later, after Christ left and his Holy Spirit came. By then, Peter was transformed into a more courageous, devoted and motivated follower who was loudly preaching the Gospel. He had been given, along with the remaining disciples, the Great Commission. I can picture that new Peter not waiting to be asked in that courtyard if he knew Christ. That new Peter would have stood on the highest step, standing above the crowd, with the fire lighting up his face, shouting at the top of his lungs who Jesus was and that he was a follower.

But Christ knew what would actually happen that night and he told Peter ahead of time. He knew, too, that we’d be reading about this thousands of years later and we would see ourselves in the frightened, unsure, and overwhelmed Peter.

Jesus knew that we’d need to see someone who obviously loved him also fail him. He knew that we’d need to see someone bold and brazen suddenly become cowardly and craven. He knew we’d need to see someone get a second chance — get a do-over. Because he knew we’d need that second chance, that do-over, ourselves.

During our discussion that day, the woman facilitating the small group wondered if there was significance to the fact that both of these incidents occurred around a fire. Once again, Peter has something to say: “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.” (I Peter 1:7). Although Peter would later deny Jesus, bearing that burdened role in history, he also has the special recognition as the first disciple to confess his faith. When some followers began to grumble and fall by the wayside, Jesus asked the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” and Peter, speaking up as usual, answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

So Peter’s story shows us that sometimes we come full circle. We can get it right, get it wrong, and then get it right again. We just need a second chance.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.

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