Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Reinstating Peter" - as a pattern for forgiveness

On the night of Jesus' arrest, Peter denied three times that he knew Jesus. This was right before Jesus' execution. After Jesus' death, after his resurrection, he met his disciples by the sea again -- and he asked three times, "Simon, do you love me?"

Some see this as Jesus reinstating Simon Peter. No doubt that Peter was accepted again, and forgiven, still a disciple of Jesus, still beloved. But we also see Jesus going out of his way to present Peter with a chance to restore things, a chance to take back what he did, a chance to do what he wished he had done. Jesus could have said, "I forgive you" and left it at that. He could have said it three times, if he wanted to bring home the message that this was in answer to Peter having denied him three times, and it was fully forgiven. There are all kinds of ways that Jesus could have reinstated Peter. He chose to do it by giving Peter his dignity again, by letting Peter do something good and have a hand in restoring things between them. Jesus made it very simple for him; Peter could hardly have missed.

It's really easy for forgiveness to be condescending; that restores nothing. Sometimes the "forgiving" person actually humiliates the person they claim to forgive; that kind of "forgiveness" is more an act of revenge than an act of love. Jesus' forgiveness was genuine and welcoming, even presenting Peter with a chance to look back gladly about what he himself had done (though he didn't seem to realize it at the time). Peter didn't create that opportunity; Jesus handed it to him.

There are so many things that need restoring in my life that I'm hoping I can figure out how to follow Jesus in this. Just imagine all the currently-broken relationships: what if people could look at each other without resentment or shame?


Martin LaBar said...

Christ is the pattern for all good things, including forgiveness!

Howard said...

One of the real deep points of the Gospel record. What Christ does here for this man is so significant (ask someone who has been in similar dire straights) and totally imperative if we are to function in any meaningful fashion as the body of Christ to our times.