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Flawed, Forgiven, and Still Following

The adage, "We all make mistakes," is true. But some make more than others, don't they? One lady received an unusually large check one payday . She decided not to say anything The following week, her check was far less than the usual amount, and she confronted her boss about the shortage. But the supervisor surprised her when he asked, "Why didn't you say anything when you were over paid?" Unruffled, she replied, "I can overlook one mistake — but not two in a row." John 21:15ff records an important incident in the life of the apostle Peter that reminds us of Jesus' willingness to forgive our sins and mistakes — even multiple ones. John 18:15-17 and 25 -27 records the familiar account of the night Jesus was arrested and Peter's multiple denials (three times) that he knew the Lord. Earlier the same night Peter had boldly affirmed his undying devotion for Jesus, even to the point of being willing to die if need be. But when the critical moment came and the Lord was arrested, Peter's courage and conviction ran out. Just as Jesus had predicted (13:37-38), Peter denied three separate times that he knew his Master. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that at the crowing of the rooster, Peter "went out and wept bitterly" (Matthew 26:75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22:62). The Bible never re-touches or edits out the failings of its characters, even the greatest ones, and Peter is no exception. The shame of his three-in-a-row denials washed over his soul, temporarily burying the apostle in his own grave of guilt, leaving him heartbroken and, no doubt, disgusted with himself and wondering if the Lord could ever forgive Him.

Peter fell hard, and if the story ended there, it would be a sad one, indeed. But the glory of Jesus and His Gospel is that those who fall don't have to stay down! Jesus rose out of His grave so that we can be raised from our own graves of sin and guilt. There is no place in the New Testament that emphasizes that truth more emphatically than John chapter 21. Jesus initiates fellowship and communion with Peter and other disciples over a breakfast of fish. At no point in the record do we get the idea that Jesus is put out and fed up with these flawed disciples who had so badly failed and deserted Him. Rather, He began efforts to restore relationship with them and re-commission them in their work. That is not to say He did not confront the flaws and failings of these followers — He did. In Peter's case, Jesus gently addressed Peter's spiritual three-fold failure a few days earlier. He didn't rub Peter's nose in his failure. Rather, with love and tenderness, the Lord got straight to the heart of the matter with a soul-searching question He pressed upon Peter three times: "Do you love Me? ... Do you love Me?... Do you love Me?" (John 21:15-18). The failure itself wasn't the biggest issue with Jesus. The main question was did Peter still love the Lord enough to turn it around and serve Him again? Once Peter had reaffirmed his love, Jesus restored and re-commissioned the flawed apostle with the simple but profound challenge, "Follow Me" (vs 21). Like Peter, all of us are flawed in big ways or small. The question the Lord still presses is the same as for Peter: "Do you love Me?" We may be flawed and we may fail the Lord at times. But if we truly love Him, we will also be forgiven and we will be found following and serving Him. Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ