I’m not great at conflict. I’m often the one who will avoid a subject to avoid hurt feelings. If I feel I’ve wronged someone I don’t exactly seek them out in a room. I may seem like I’m unaffected by what ever the issue is at hand, but internally, I’m a mess. This, unfortunately, is not only truly in my earthly relationships but can be true in my relationship with God. I also don’t understand grace. And yes these two things are very related.
I just returned home from trip to Israel (along with one Mr. Jeff Bachman). We saw some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen and done some things that I never imagined myself doing. We walked where Jesus walked, wandered where the Israelites wandered, and stood in awe of the cross where Jesus was killed. My life will forever be changed by the things I saw and experienced in my time in God’s chosen land. Yet when I think about one of the most impactful lessons I took home from my 10 days there, it doesn’t have anything to do with the sights or land. It has to do with a story I have read 100 times but for some reason, in hearing it for time 101, God allowed me to hear it all new ears.
We’ve all heard about Peter. Peter is the one who acts before he speaks, shoots before he aims, and makes it far too easy for us to relate to him. For much of my life I have felt like I am too much like Peter, a little too impulsive and little too emotionally led.
In the final chapters of the gospel of John, the author recaptures the events prior to and right after the death of Jesus. We read that Peter denies Christ three times, even found cursing in his final denial. I can’t even fathom the guilt, shame, utter hatred Peter must have felt for himself after he heard the words come out of his mouth and the rooster crow. Not moments later does Jesus go straight to his horrendous death. Peter must have been replaying in his mind the sin he just committed, the sorrow he just caused his friend, knowing that was the last encounter he had with him. There is a pit in my stomach just imagining it. Unfortunately, I have felt similar feelings in my heart and stomach.
After 3 days of sitting on what he has done, Peter attempts to go back to normal life. He goes back to what he knows, fishing on the water. By this time Jesus has returned to life and is walking around Galilee. He sees his disciples on the water struggling to catch some fish. Jesus yells out to them and after a bit, John realizes who this stranger is. As soon as John exclaims that it is the Lord, Peter immediately jumps in the water and swims to him. Putting myself in Peter’s shoes I can only imagine the relief that must have swept over his body. He thought he would have to live in the guilt and shame of his sin forever, but no! Jesus is alive! I have felt that desperation many times. Dying to see in the eyes of the person I’ve wronged that we are okay, that they haven’t given up on me. That feeling makes me a little emotional even now!
If I were Peter, would I have swam to Jesus? Or would I have hid at the bottom of the boat, knowing that I had wronged my Rabbi in the deepest of ways? Unfortunately I probably would have done the latter, backing away slowly, avoiding eye contact. By Peter running to the one he wronged, he shows he truly knows grace. He truly knows (in his head and his heart) that Christ’s love for Peter is not dependent on what he does or doesn’t do. Now if I truly believed that, I wouldn’t hide in a corner when I know I’ve disappointed God. I should be able to approach God with sorrow over my sin, knowing that discipline may be coming, but never in the form of anger or withholding love. That is not in God’s character. Peter got that.
Do we as a church truly understand that? Do we treat those in our church with the same grace? Do we love despite what others do? Do I believe that God loves me despite my flesh that wins far too often? Do I love others from these eyes of grace or eyes of expectation? For the first time in Peter’s life thus far, I think there is something we can hope to identify with.
-Sarah Welles was a fellow traveler with me to Israel, she is a part of team Lexus, a dear friend, and she hosts a podcast. I respect this girl a ton.