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Christians deny Jesus, but we can change

My daily devotionals this past week have explored Jesus' journey toward his crucifixion. That focus makes sense since today is Easter, the highest of holy days for the Christian faith.

The devotionals reminded me of why Jesus was sacrificed on the cross. He was sacrificed, like the spotless lambs of the Old Testament, to atone for the lie I told yesterday or the one I'll probably tell tomorrow.

What particularly caught my attention this week, however, is how his disciple, Peter, a man who had watched Jesus work miracles for three years and had listened to his teachings, denied knowing Jesus just to save himself.

Jesus told Peter that would happen, but Peter declared it wouldn't.

In my devotionals, the author asked how I had denied Jesus lately.

I'm a Christian, I thought. I have witnessed God's miracles in my own life and in the lives of friends and family. How could I possibly deny Jesus?

As I have learned, when I get to be my most self-righteous, that's when I fall the quickest and hardest. Just like Peter.

I, too, have distanced myself from Jesus in so many ways, as have so many others in this nation.

For example, I expected to see more Christians shouting from rooftops that a Michigan militia group that reportedly plots to kill police officers is not a Christian organization as they claim to be.

Our silence was not a show of support for Jesus.

Many Christians passively allowed others to claim that using some of our money to give our neighbors the luxury of affordable health care was abominable.

We expect mercy and compassion from Jesus, but we don't want to offer it to others.

And, instead of having sympathy for our neighbors, whose homes have been foreclosed, we lament how their misfortune will lower our property values.

Denying Jesus is one thing, but giving up our love of money is quite another.

Why do we do that? Why do we allow the parameters of true Christianity to be compromised by others as well as ourselves? Why are we still denying Jesus despite all he has done for us?

"That is the question for the ages," said the Rev. Susan Warren, pastor of Beaumont Presbyterian Church and the wife of my colleague Jim Warren, the newspaper's education reporter. "I don't think we can answer that."

But Warren did have one answer.

"When I try to scrape it down to the bottom, I usually get to fear," she said. "We're afraid of what we will lose."

That loss could be our standing in society if someone were to call us hypocrites, or it could be our loss of "stuff" if we have to share with neighbors.

The independence that created this country is fast becoming a means of separation.

But, Warren said, there is another side to the issue. Sometimes we focus too much on the sin of denying Jesus, which we do daily, and not enough on the love we have been blessed with.

"We do some good things, too," Warren said. "We do a lot of giving. Some people, like Ginny Ramsey, (co-founder of the Catholic Action Center), are called to that kind of incredible work."

Ramsey works with Lexington's homeless population. Reporter Cheryl Truman wrote a profile in the Herald-Leader on her recently.

We all could do similar acts of kindness, or mercy and compassion if we truly understood and believed just how much we are loved by God, Warren said. That knowledge is freeing. Instead of separating, love unites.

"We wouldn't be so judgmental about whether our neighbors are working as hard as they could be," she said. "If we understand that we are loved, we could understand that everyone is loved, and then we would care for each other more."

No one is slighted. No one has the upper hand. No one need fear.

I should be happy we all will have good health care. Jesus would want the same for us if circumstances were reversed.

If the actions of various groups, cloaked in Christianity, aim to redefine our God, we Christians should stand against them. Saving the unborn by killing the living is not what Jesus told us to do. That's not Christian.

Yes, we deny Jesus on a daily basis. He knew we would just as he knew Peter would.

The difference between Peter and Judas, who also denied Jesus, is that Peter repented, cried inconsolably, and then became the rock on which Jesus' church was built.

Jesus didn't change. Peter did.

Now, it's our turn.

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