Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is Deny http://fiveminutefriday.com/linkup .
What do you think of when you hear the word “deny”? I think that deny is a word of refusal. You can refuse to give someone something that they have asked for, something that they need. You can refuse to accept the truth about something or someone. You can refuse someone their rights. You can refuse to believe facts or history. All these are forms of denial.
The Easter narrative includes accounts of Jesus predicting that Peter will deny knowing Him three times before the cock crows – and Peter does just that. Jesus also says, in Luke 9:23,
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
So what are we to deny? I can’t deny my existence – I am very much here, born from my mother’s womb, alive. I can’t deny that my life and the way I live it has an effect on the lives of those around me, for better or for worse.
But I have had an interesting thought about denying myself which might be worth exploring and, in a roundabout way it’s also connected with Peter’s denial.
Why did Peter deny knowing Jesus? Probably because he was in fear of his life – if he had admitted to knowing Jesus he would probably have suffered the same fate, so no wonder he was afraid. Yet there are so many times in the Bible where we are told not to be afraid. Fear doesn’t come from God. Fear comes from within ourselves. And so too does anger, selfishness, desire, lust, longing for the approval of our fellow men, longing for possessions, money, power, physical comforts etc. All these are so very tempting – after all, who doesn’t want a comfortable life, with plenty of money, nice clothes, fancy car, posh house, all the trappings of success? Even secretly? Do we not get even a little envious of those who are “better” than us? Temptation, our deadliest enemy, doesn’t come from outside, it comes from within. And it is this part of ourselves which we are to deny, to bring to the foot of Jesus’s cross, to lay before Him.
We may think to ourselves, “I’ll never deny Jesus.” But do we deny Him by our words, our lifestyle, our choices? Do we always speak from a place of love? Do we always speak truth? Do we always speak life? Do we associate with God’s people? Do we live in His grace, knowing the truth of who we are in Him? Do we actively seek peace and justice? Do we defend and support the widow and the orphan? Do we actively seek to “do good”?
Jesus, on the day that we remember on Good Friday, willingly took up His cross – an instrument of execution, an instrument of torture. His was going to be a death of excruciating pain, shame, nakedness – yet He took it up willingly, He carried it in humility and abject poverty, through a crowd of mocking people. And He did this all for me. Am I going to deny Him, or am I going to deny myself?