Thursday, June 25th. Mark 8:31-33

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Mark 8:31-33

Friends challenge us. They know us well enough, and trust us enough, to tell us what we need to hear, even if it isn’t what we want to hear.

Peter thought he was saying the right thing when he spoke out against Jesus’ prediction of his suffering and death. He thought he was defending his friend. But in fact, he was doing just the opposite because, if he did defend Jesus’ life, it would come at the cost of the meaning of Jesus’ life. So Jesus didn’t let the comment pass. He challenged Peter. He spoke harshly to him. It had to hurt. But Peter needed to hear it.

Few people like to hear themselves criticized. We don’t like to hear that we’re wrong, that we made bad choices, that we are misguided or misdirected. Yet, we often are. When our friends care enough about us to really want what is best for us in life, they will hold us accountable, they will challenge us.

I remember a time when I shared something very personal with a friend of mine. I thought I was doing so in order to get a little encouragement. Maybe a little solace. But he quickly saw through me and realized that I was heading down a pretty rotten road. He didn’t let me off the hook. He confronted me and challenged me to do better. It hurt but it was an important step toward healing.

I remember a time when I wrote a really nasty letter to someone. He, my friend, sent the letter back to me and challenged some of the things I had said. That too hurt but it was important for me to hear.

Friends who don’t confront us when we need it are not real friends. Friends who don’t challenge us to be the best people we can be are not real friends. Friends who console and comfort us when what we really need is a reality check are not real friends.

No one likes to hurt someone else’s feelings. But guess what? Few people have died from hurt feelings! There are often far worse consequences to the choices people make than a few hurt feelings. Jesus no doubt hurt Peter’s feelings that day – and Peter probably never forgot it – but Jesus only did it so that Peter could realize a deeper truth, and become the Peter God needed him to be.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, we know there is a big difference between being harmful and being helpful. Yet there are times when being helpful feels an awful lot like being harmful. Free us to speak with frankness and honesty to our friends when we believe they need to hear us. And free us to truly listen to our friends when they challenge us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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