Monday, April 19, 2010

"Do You Love Me?"

Jesus asked the above question to Peter three times in a poignant story at the end of the Gospel of John (21:15-19). This is a post-resurrection story in which Peter experiences forgiveness for his denial of Jesus.

While some commentators interpret these questions as the Risen Jesus doubting whether Peter still loves him, I have a different view. I believe that Jesus was offering Peter three opportunities to reaffirm his love for Jesus. The three affirmations cancel out the three denials. If this is true, then this is a scene of forgiveness and freedom. Jesus liberates Peter from his guilt and shame.

Not only does Jesus forgive Peter, he gives him a mission to "feed my sheep." Peter can now move forward with the purpose of taking care of the flock of believers.

Forgiveness doesn't consist in saying the words, "I forgive you," but in showing trust in the one forgiven. By entrusting Peter with the community of Jerusalem Christians, Jesus was expressing confidence in Peter.

There is a lesson here for us. When we forgive someone, we need to also show that we trust them. Although it may take time to move from the words "I forgive you" to trust, it is important not to stop with words. Words need to be backed up by actions.

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