By Dean Merrill

Did you grow up with a mom or a dad who, if you got out of line, could stop you in your tracks without saying a word? I certainly did. If I was doing or saying something inappropriate (especially in front of other people), a cold stare would let me know I had better cut it out right now. I’d freeze in response.

The other day I came across a moment in Luke’s gospel where Jesus employed “the look” with one of his disciples. It happened in the middle of an intense grilling by the high priest and his minions, with Jesus being bombarded by hostile questions and accusations. Meanwhile, outside at the courtyard fire, Peter was trying to dance around the suspicions of questioners. After his third denial, suddenly “the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter…” (Luke 22:61).

He didn’t say a word. He didn’t need to. The steady gaze of the Master sent a shiver down Peter’s spine as he stumbled out into the chilly darkness, sobbing. He’d been busted.

Actually, the Lord earlier that evening had already said all he needed to—twice: “Pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (vss. 40, 46). Maybe Peter thought Jesus had meant something classic like the temptation to greed, or lust, or pride. Instead, the big fisherman had fallen to the temptation of disloyalty in order to stay anonymous in a dicey environment.

The complex challenges of life put all of us into moments that test our character. Will we do the right thing regardless of the consequences, or will we tap-dance around the matter? Will we rationalize, cut a corner, shade the truth? Or in different moments, will we flare out with cutting words because, after all, we have a right to speak our mind?

Ed Koch was the colorful three-term mayor of New York City throughout the 1980s. When out on the street or in a crowd shaking hands, he often didn’t give the common greeting of “Hello! How are you doing?” Instead, he’d say with a grin, “How’m I doin’? How’m I doin’?” And the blunt citizens of the Big Apple were only too willing to tell Koch exactly what they thought of his performance as mayor.

That’s a good question to ask God at the close of a day, when we slow down enough to review. How did I do today, Lord? Where you pleased with what you saw from me this day? Was anything out of line? Anything I need to correct next time around? I want you to be happy with my words, my actions, even my thoughts and motives, because your opinion of me is what I value most in life.

The apostle Paul once exhorted a group of Christians, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5). Whether we get Heaven’s version of a smile, or Heaven’s version of “the look,” it’s always worth making the inquiry.

Dean Merrill, long-time member of the FCA, is a former magazine editor and writer best known for his award-winning collaborations with such Christian leaders as Jim Cymbala (Brooklyn Tabernacle), Wess Stafford (Compassion International), and Gracia Burnham (Philippine missionary hostage survivor). You may find more of Dean Merrill’s writing at www.deanmerrill.com