Mat 26:69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, "You also were with Jesus the Galilean." Mat 26:70 But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you mean." Mat 26:71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." Mat 26:72 And again he denied it with an oath: "I do not know the man." Mat 26:73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you." Mat 26:74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately the rooster crowed.
While thinking about some of the reasons that might have caused Peter to deny the Lord I thought of one that we all probably can identify with. There are a couple of obvious ones like when he argues with Jesus about whether he would deny him or not. We all emulate Peter here as well when we don’t take the Word seriously and think we can live by our own wisdom rather than the Lord’s. He also is confident in his flesh when he says that although the rest of the disciples might deny him, he never will. Self-confidence will always result in trusting the flesh rather than Christ.
But the one that I found the most intriguing I infer from the text. One way to be able to withstand compromise when others pressure you to dishonor the Lord comes in the way we look at the lost around us. In this case Peter is afraid of what being identified with Christ might mean to his physical safety. To admit to being a follower of Christ might mean he will end up standing up before Pilate and the High Priest like Jesus was and eventually end up on a cross.
So Peter is looking at these girls and bystanders as people that can do something for him or something to him. It is hard not to compromise when we see people as something we use for our own gain or security or pleasure. Why would a pastor compromise in his preaching other than he is worried for his position and salary more than the souls of his flock? When we live with the mindset of not offending the lost because of what they might do to us or think of us there is no way we will end up being faithful to the Lord at least much of the time.
Instead, Peter should have been looking at that girl as a soul who, if she dies without Christ, will end up in a Christless eternity. He should have looked at these people in the sense of what he could do for them, not what they could do for him. It is going to be much harder to deny the Lord if we remember that in so doing we are withholding the only hope they have.
This love and burden for others is also what enables us to treat people as they should be treated. How do we know that the man in Cleveland who kept those girls all those years is not a Christian? Because a Christian would be firstly concerned for the souls of those women who were held in bondage. We would have been praying for their souls not seeking to use them in any way we wanted. Christians are those who are burdened for the eternal good of others, not those who see everyone for what they can give me.
This is why Paul says what he says in 1 Cor. 6. 1Co 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 1Co 6:10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1Co 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Of course, we don’t live this way perfectly. One reason Paul says this is because there were some in the Corinthian church that were using others. But a saint cannot be described as a user more than a giver unless there is something seriously wrong with his heart. Remembering that we are sinners saved by grace will help us view others with compassion and not greed and help us maintain a good profession in front of others because our goal is to be used for their good, not to use them for some temporal pleasure.