Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 2 June 2015

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. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 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.” Mark 8, verses 31-33.

I spent 12 years in the Air Force; eleven on active duty and one in the Reserves. Much of who I am, the way I act, and the way I think was formed during those years including the fact that I learned how we should always speak plainly.   Say what we mean; don’t embellish and don’t waste words; regularly read this column and you see how I struggle with that last one.   My last job in the Air Force was at a place where we wrote custom software.   One of our guiding principles – and I think it’s one big reason why we were successful – is that our leadership always stressed how we should speak plainly and take responsibility. If you operate in a politically charged atmosphere, you quickly learn that most politics revolve around avoiding blame, and that’s an unhealthy attitude if you’re writing beta software for operational users.   When things break or fail – and they always do – the best way to solve the problem is to get to the root of it, pony up if you or your actions broke it, and then offer what you can to implement a solution.

That’s good advice which has served me well in everything I’ve ever done since.   More than this, it’s Godly advice because it’s one of the things Jesus was stressing to Peter when He rebuked him in verse 33.   Shirking responsibility, self-aggrandizing, or even being lazy are attributes of the enemy, not of God. We may think Peter meant well here but he really didn’t. Strip away our feelings about ‘good intentions’ and we can see that Peter was speaking selfishly.   He was probably speaking for the rest of the group, too, but it was obliquely selfish.   Jesus quickly brought his friend to task for this.

Another thing I learned was to accept criticism, even when it hurt.   One time, I was eligible for a quarterly award.   Every quarter, military units recognize star performers.   When I was a young airman, I very much wanted to win one.   Most of my friends had, several of them several times in fact.   It seemed unfair to me that a stellar guy like me wasn’t being recognized, so I went to our NCO in charge.   I admired this man, and it stung when he quickly, caringly reminded me that I hadn’t done anything stellar or really noteworthy.   Sure, in my own mind I should have been Airman of the Quarter many times over but, in fact, the only person who thought my performance was exemplary was me. It was a good perspective to learn, both that I should hold myself to a high standard yet also to not ‘get the big head.’   Re-read the verses today and I think you see that this is also something Jesus is inferring to Peter.   ‘Get behind me Satan.   You aren’t as big a deal as you think you are.’ Good advice in anything.

Jesus, thank You for Your rebukes and Your loving correction.   Forgive and re-build me.

Read Mark 8, verses 34-38.

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