CHANGE IN CHARACTER
As I have been preaching through Peter’s first letter, I am struck by what a different person we meet in this letter than the person we meet in the gospels. Because of his relationship with Jesus, Peter was changed!
The Peter we meet in the gospels is doubtful and impulsive. He speaks without thinking, worries about what others think of him, and is inclined to fall asleep on the job or to collapse under pressure.
One of our first encounters with Peter is in Luke 5, when Jesus uses Peter’s boat as a speaking platform to address a crowd. When He finishes speaking, Jesus asks Peter to “put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Peter objects, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” He goes ahead with Jesus’ request, but makes it clear that he is not expecting anything to come from it. When Peter hauls up a net so full of fish that it is about to break, Peter blurts out, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” He doubted Jesus. We see his doubt again when Jesus is arrested, and Peter denies even knowing Him.
We see Peter’s impulsiveness when he requests permission to walk on the water with Jesus. That’s a good example of impulsiveness, but we also see his impulsiveness when he cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant (John 18) and when he denies knowing Jesus.
Peter spoke without thinking when he “rebuked” Jesus for telling the disciples that He must die and then be raised to life (Matthew 16:22), when he blurted out his plan to build monuments for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah (Matthew 17:4), when he announced that Jesus would never wash his feet (John 13:8), and when he denied knowing Jesus.
We observe Peter’s worry about what others think when he denies knowing Jesus and, some years later, when Paul confronts Peter for withdrawing from eating with Gentiles when Jewish leaders arrive (Galatians 2:11-14).
And we find evidence of him falling asleep on the job and/or collapsing under pressure when he falls asleep while Jesus is praying in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42), when he begins to sink while walking on water (Matthew 14:30), and when he denies knowing Jesus.
But by the time Peter writes his letter to scattered believers, he is a greatly changed person. I observe the change in Peter’s character most clearly when he speaks to “the elders among you,” appealing to them as “a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 5:1). By this point in Peter’s life, Christ has grown in him the heart of a shepherd for God’s sheep, so Peter appeals to them to “be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving…not because you must, but because you are willing…not greedy for money, but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3). Gone is Peter’s doubtfulness and impulsiveness. Gone is his tendency to speak without thinking, his worry about what others think of him, and his tendency to fall asleep on the job or to collapse under pressure.
I am glad that Christ is still in the business of changing people’s character. I pray that He will continue to change and refine my character.