When we hear this Gospel, perhaps we even feel a little fired up, ready to acknowledge Jesus before a firing squad. Certainly, if we are ever called upon to deny Jesus and worship idols, we will have to die as martyrs, but in the meantime, there is more than one way to deny him before others. Have we acknowledged him by our words and actions each day? Every time we curse at someone, we are denying Jesus. Every time we hurt someone we are denying Jesus. Every time we fail to help someone we are denying Jesus. They can turn to us and ask, “How is it that you speak about this human who was God but you do not even treat me like a human being?” and we will have no answer. That is what it means to deny Jesus before others.
We acknowledge Jesus when we give up a life of riches to preach the word and serve the poor, because then someone will ask, “How is it that you have given up everything you could have had, just to tell people about Jesus and take care of the poor?” and we will say, “Jesus had nothing.” How much more powerful is this testimony than any number of televangelists with million dollar homes! We acknowledge Jesus when we suffer gladly, speaking of him even in the midst of pain, because then someone will ask, “How is it that even though you suffer you have not given up on God?” and we will say, “Jesus suffered too.” How much more powerful is this witness than any number of pamphlets! We acknowledge Jesus when we love others, especially our enemies, because then someone will ask, “How is it that you can love them when they have done such terrible things to you?” and we will say, “Jesus loves everyone, even you and me.” How much more powerful is this testimony than any number of preachers on soapboxes!
By faith, hope, and love we acknowledge Jesus before others. Faith that causes us to act. Hope that endures through every trial. Love without qualification. It is not normal to see such things, but with God all things are possible, so when the impossible happens right in front of people’s eyes, they will have to acknowledge that God was at work in us. That is what it means to acknowledge Jesus before others.