By: Staci Stallings
I think sometimes we Christians get into the mindset of thinking the saints and more specifically the apostles were “super-Christians.” We believe that they had super strength in themselves to follow Christ perfectly.
Of course, even a cursory reading of the New Testament should convince us that this isn’t the case, but it just seems so right. They HAD to be “more than” after all many of them died for Christ, many of them made great sacrifices to follow Him. That would surely take an act of will that we don’t have.
But look again. Look specifically at Peter. Look at how many times and in how many different ways Peter just simply got it wrong. Jesus even told him once, “Get behind me, Satan.” That’s pretty strong language against someone you dearly love.
Peter’s faith such that it was or wasn’t was tested over and over again, and the truth is that over and over again, he failed. Sometimes he failed miserably. Sometimes he failed even worse than that. For example, there’s the sinking when he tried to walk on water thing. Then he betrayed Jesus. He cut off a guy’s ear. He abandoned Jesus. He even went back to fishing (as if nothing had happened) after the resurrection. Then he holed up with the other apostles in the Upper Room in fear for his life.
For one Jesus called, “The Rock,” he was more the shrinking violet or the hot-headed coward than a pillar of how to live a Christian life. And yet, he WAS a pillar of how to live a Christian life.
We as Christians often think we are Christians because we don’t mess up. But look at Peter. Really look.
After he denied Jesus, he didn’t even want to have breakfast with Him. No, Peter walked some steps away.
I know why he did that, and so do you.
Have you ever messed up and had this burning desire to get as far away from God as possible? Have you ever just “known” in your heart that this was it. This time He was not going to take you back? Have you ever not wanted to face Him because of something you’ve done?
There was a brief reference to another of Peter’s inglorious moments in “Forgiven Forever.” It featured Peter and the other disciples up on a mountaintop with thousands of people and no food. The disciples’ solution was to send the people away. Why? Because they didn’t want to be bothered with the effort it would take to feed them. The people’s problem was THEIR problem, not the disciples’ problem.
Then there was that whole telling the mothers to take their children away thing.
No. The truth of the matter is that Peter messed up. Repeatedly. He didn’t understand God’s love. He took some things for granted, made horrible choices, and even walked away from God who wasn’t some concept but a living, breathing human being standing right there with him.
But Jesus would have none of it. How many times did Jesus take Peter back? 70 x 7? That sounds about right.
God’s love for Peter was unconditional because He chose to see past Peter’s faults, his impetuousness, his willfulness. God chose to see Peter as innocent rather than to call him out and condemn him for being weak and impulsive. And in the end, Peter came to believe so fully in that love–not because he got it right all the time, but moreso because even when he got it WAY wrong, Jesus never said, “Okay, that’s it. You’re not worth this.”
When you find a love like that, a love that loves even when (maybe especially when) you most don’t deserve it, it might take awhile but eventually, you begin to believe what that Love is saying about you and about Himself. You believe that He will never leave, that He will always take you back… 70 X 7 times.
I like that about Peter because I’m so much like him. I say I won’t sin again, and then there I am again. I say I trust God, and up come the waves and I sink. I say I love people, and then I’m trying to figure out how to get them out of my hair so I don’t have to deal with them.
But just like Peter, I’m learning about God’s unconditional love for me. I’m learning He will always take me back, and that because of that, I don’t want to stray very far anymore. I want to feel that Love, to be near it, to cling to it when the whole world goes nuts around me. Why? Because I’ve learned to trust that Love. I’ve learned it will never pitch me aside because I’m too much trouble.
I think Peter eventually learned to trust that Love too. In that way and so many others, I’m just like Peter.