Peter was hanging out in the high priest’s courtyard. He was a simple country boy from Galilee. There were no physical signs that distinguished Galileans from the city folks. Peter was blending in perfectly in his attempt to observe his teacher’s “trial” before the high priests. That is, until he opened his mouth.
“Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you” (Matthew 26:73)
Most people overlook the fact that Peter’s denial of Jesus three times may not have been the most important part of this text. The people who questioned him would have never known he was being untruthful about knowing Jesus had they not heard his accent. His accent had betrayed him. What happens when your accent betrays you?
I’ve lived in three large cities since I left the quaint environment of my hometown, Brunswick, Georgia. I’ll never forget my law school orientation. As I sat in the auditorium with other first year law students from around the country, the moderator asked a question. Knowing the answer, I raised my hand and opened my mouth. Immediately, my classmates noticed my southern drawl and I was labeled country. A certain stigma accompanies being labeled country. Although you articulate the same words (with an accent), somehow you are considered illiterate, backwoods, and, in some ways, inferior. My accent had betrayed me.
Peter could have given up in that moment. He could have walked away, never to be heard from again.
“They’re right. I’m nothing but a country fisherman from Galilee. I’ll never amount to anything.”
But after a later encounter with Jesus, his demeanor changed. I believe his conversation with Jesus reminded him of something. It wasn’t necessarily WHAT Jesus said, but HOW he said it. Jesus was a Galilean. He has the same accent as Peter. He, too, was considered country. He, too, was considered backwoods. He, too, was considered inferior. Can anything good come from Nazareth? Peter was reminded that God himself, in the flesh, had an accent that betrayed him. Peter went from his accent BETRAYING him to his accent PORTRAYING him.
This fisherman from Galilee became a fisher of men. He became the mouthpiece of God for the early Church. He spoke with boldness, despite his drawl. He spoke with confidence, despite the country twang. In fact, the first time he spoke publicly, thousands gave their lives to Christ.
Has your accent betrayed you in times past? Have people tried to label you with certain stereotypes because your speech isn’t proper? Change your perspective. Think about it. Jesus himself embraced the country lifestyle. Maybe it was the simplicity. Maybe it was getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. One thing is for sure: when Jesus (and Peter) spoke, people listened.
I have come to embrace my accent, even in “professional” environments. Because my accent ultimately tells a story…
I associate myself with the country carpenter from Galilee. And I’m okay with that.