Do you know the legend of Saint Peter’s death? There are several versions but nothing recorded in the scriptures.
The best known appears in the Acts of Peter, a third-century work that records Jesus closest disciple’s death. When the Neronian persecution began, Peter leaves Rome rather than face crucifixion with other Christians in the Hippodrome.
As he flees south along the Appian Way, he encounters Jesus walking toward the city. “Quo vadis, Domine?” Peter asks. “Where are you going, Lord?”
Jesus, in what became known as the “Quo Vadis Legend”, replies. “To Rome, to be crucified again.”
Peter, once again humiliated, thinks further, turns, and goes back to the city where, at his own request, he is crucified upside down, feeling himself unworthy of being crucified in the same way as his master.
All we know for sure is that Saint Peter was martyred in Rome in the second half of the first century around the same time that Saint Paul was killed. It is widely accepted that Peter was crucified upside down and Paul was beheaded.
When I think of this legend I can’t help but think about our struggles to remain faithful.
As the persecution increased, as the story goes, Peter fled Rome. Life would be easier if not safer somewhere else.
OK, so we are not under any sort of persecution in the United States, but it is clear that many Christians park their faith in the garage when it conflicts with a deeply held personal belief or we become strangely silent in moments when there is controversy. It is as if we spiritually flee Rome when “the going gets tough.” Whether it is an internal conflict or an external struggle, many runaway from Christ and who Christ calls us to be.
I am not pointing fingers here. Only you can discern if you are one of these types of Christians. Of course, it helps to be self-aware and it is essential to understand what scripture says about the nature of God and what scripture says about how Christians might live. That could be some of the problem. It is hard to have a Biblical worldview if a person doesn’t know their Bible.
We could go through history (recent and ancient) and see this play out over and over again in different ways. For example, The Spanish Inquisition that began in the 1490s. Instead of preaching the good news of Jesus to all people, the Church persecuted anyone who was not Christian. Many were forced to convert to Christianity under duress and many others died. Another example, slavery and racism in our country. Many Christians have been on the wrong side of these issues throughout our nation’s history and some still are.
It is not only issue driven. It can also be our response to anything. Last night at our Lenten worship, Dave Denny talked about a preacher on the campus of DeAnza College who was spouting all sorts of angry words about who God hates (including a banner just to be crystal clear). You can see where a person like that will make life more difficult for other Christians (like us) to talk about Jesus because people will now assume that all Christians are like that.
As Peter left Rome, he saw Jesus headed toward that same city. The conversation they had changed Peter’s mind and he went back. I am hopeful Jesus is having those same conversations with people today through prayer, worship and conversations between Christians.
The truth is this: we follow a God of love. A God who willingly died on the cross so that we might see the depths of that love. More than that, Christ’s death is the way God deals with our lack of faith and bad attitudes (sin). The cross is a sign of reconciliation. God calls us back to Him through that cross. It is through the One who died on that cross who can remove our brokenness and replace it with love.
One of the reminders of Lent is to follow Christ all the way to His crucifixion. We are called to take up our crosses and follow Him (Mark 8:34). It is a call for every Christian to put our selfishness and bad attitudes to death. It also is a reminder that there are more important things than saving our own lives (our agendas, our personal beliefs, etc.…) and some things are worth dying for.
Christianity is not meant to be a side dish or a condiment to enhance our entrée. The call of Christ is to leave our personal ambitions and agendas behind to become the love of God in this hurting and broken world. Leave the judging to God (Romans 2:1-4). Hate has no place in God’s Kingdom.