Today’s reading was Mark 8:31-33
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
I noticed something in this passage that I had never noticed before. Jesus’ rebuke of Peter comes right at this point: “When Jesus turned and looked at his disciples…” What this suggests to me is that Jesus is deeply concerned about how Peter’s lack of understanding is going to affect other followers within his circle of influence. Jesus is so concerned about this that he issues possibly the harshest rebuke he ever uttered, to call Peter “Satan” – the epitome of one opposed to God.
I think this highlights the myth of individual faith. We may be under the illusion that our faith is a private, individual matter primarily between us and God. This illusion has been further fostered by the language we use to talk about coming to Christ. We speak of a “personal decision” and a “personal relationship.” Of course, this is true. Each person must decide for themselves whether they will follow or not.
But we are mistaken if we think the effect of our faith is restricted just to ourselves.
How many Christian teenagers have been discouraged by the lukewarm-ness or outright sin of their parents?
How many Christian college students led astray by other “Christian” students who, away from church and family for the first time, choose to exercise their new-found freedom in a less than God-honoring direction?
How many new Christians, fresh faced with excitement over their recently found faith, are discouraged by the cynicism and passivity of supposedly more mature Christians in the congregation?
How many coworkers, looking to see a real example of a Christ-follower have been disappointed to hear our grumbling and complaining just like everyone else in the office?
Our faith is not a private matter. Just as Jesus saw that Peter, if unrebuked, had the potential to bring down the rest of the disciples, so we, in how we walk our faith, can either encourage or seriously discourage others.
Our faith is not a private matter. It was never intended to be.