From Madness to Faith: The Apostle Peter


(system) #1

(Translated by Carlos Enrique Espinosa)

As I write these reflections, I experience great joy. It's like a journey: I know where I'm starting, but I also know that I can expect discoveries along the way.

In this lesson, which talks about transformation, I am invited to travel on various routes that take me through different landscapes. So let’s head out, exploring two particular places on our map:

  • The transformation of Simon into Peter
  • The place of emotions in the Christian life

I start by reflecting on the transformation of Simon into Peter. At the beginning, the lesson emphasizes Peter’s emotions and ties them to his “many mistakes.” The lesson claims that “emotions are an important part of Christian life, but not the most important,” and that “what we feel is not the final test of what is the truth.” These statements are part of traditional attitudes in the church that devalue emotions and focus on rationality, as though the left hemisphere of the brain is more important than the right!

However, I see more complexity. I think that the apostle was unable to become Peter without first being Simon, the impulsive and emotional fisherman.

This insight allows me to glimpse myself as a whole and see that I can be transformed only after I acknowledge my strengths as well as my weaknesses. Only when I recognize my weakness will I want to begin a path of growth and be tolerant of weaknesses that I see in others. I am intolerant when I view myself as superior to others, and I feel superior when I lose sight of my own humanity.

The man who appears at the beginning of the story is Simon. Simon is a man of determination, impulsive and ready for action, willing to leave his home and job to follow Jesus, the roaming master. At the end of the story, he has another name: Peter. Peter is still prepared to make his own will prevail, even with force. His impulsiveness remains, and he cuts off the ear of the Centurion's servant. These attributes remain even after his transformation into a man of faith, thus triggering criticism from Paul, who called him “hypocritical” (Gal. 2:11–14).

Just as Peter is naive and fearful, so he is also honest and sincere in his search for repentance (Matt. 26:75). In addition, he is passionate and perceptive, with a high sense of justice (according to his schemes), and simultaneously proud yet humble.

We could say that Peter’s personality had permanent marked poles. He expresses great faith, yet in the next moment succumbs to doubt (Luke 22:31–33, 54–62). One of the things I love most about the Bible is the sincerity of the life testimonies it contains. It shows us as we are: as real humans, without idealization.

One day, Simon meets Jesus. This particular meeting is like every other: it involves a process and transformation. According to one proverb, the teacher arrives when the student is ready. And what does it mean to be ready? I think it means simply to be open to a search. Some confuse readiness with being unimpeachable. If this were true, then why would we need a master?

The path of transformation is a journey from the known to the new. In that process, we get rid of our masks, our repeated behavior. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, according to Einstein, is insanity.

Peter began a journey of transformation even though he failed to understand fully the mission of Jesus. Although many people seek understanding at the beginning of their journey, Peter proceeded even though he didn’t fully understand; he believed that following Jesus was important. To me, this helps demonstrate the importance of intuitions and feelings.

The place of emotions in the Christian life. Emotions are important, holding the same central place for all humans. The basic ones are joy, affection, fear, anger, and sadness.

I see God making us complete and integrated, with two hemispheres of the brain that respectively govern logic and emotions. I do not understand why we view one as superior to the other. God made us whole and integrated, the two dimensions working in harmony. Imbalance produces illness, pain, and disorientation.

I believe that the big issue is not what we feel, but what we do with what we feel. We promote healing and healthy human relationships when we recognize, feel, and express our own emotions, when we are truly aware of our own feelings. If we do not understand ourselves, we have difficulty understanding others.

If we admit it is healthy to recognize, feel, and express our own emotions—and that this amounts to communicating well with ourselves—we should see that emotions are part of a scheme much more complex than pure sensation.

Emotions shape our feelings, and these form our affections. Affections, in turn, determine how we feel and act. However, there are also different kinds of emotion, which generally respond to our reading of reality. So, I envision three different levels: emotional, rational, and behavioral.

Peter’s problem was not his emotions, but how he viewed reality, the lenses through which he judged, the set of beliefs on which he built his conduct. For the sake of “the cause,” many people today not only cut off ears, but also segregate others for the illusion of a dogmatic truth!

Peter did not lie when he promised to give his life for Christ. But, you may say, Peter denied Jesus three times. True, he did, but I do not think he lied, because he spoke from his intentions and ideals. Nor do I think that Peter spoke out of pride, because I think he knew his limitations as a human. Instead, his response came from his own understanding of what he thought he should be. Many times, we perceive inaccurately because, like Peter, we look at ourselves as we should be. So our actions end up contradicting our words as we go through life. This is part of our humanity.

Peter was human, and the Lord loved him. Peter served the Master, despite his human weakness. What else could he have done? We serve God from where we are, as we are!

In my case, I have learned not only to seek results, but also to value the processes. So far, I have lived my life in search of results that are always inadequate. Today, I will try to set targets and find pleasure growing up, even though I often make mistakes, because this is also part of growing!

Lilia P. Arraya writes from Argentina. She is a psychologist and graduate of River Plate Adventist University.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/884