He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” – John 21:17a
On two separate, recent occasions I messed up. Because of thoughtlessness and poor judgement, I unintentionally dropped the ball and didn’t come through for people who expected me to be there. I broke trust. I hurt feelings. I caused stress. I felt rotten.
My experiences remind me of Peter and his epic failure as a friend. If you’re familiar with the story of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, you know that the night of Jesus’ arrest Simon Peter, one of his closest friends, denies knowing Jesus three separate times. I can only imagine the guilt and torment that wracked Peter after his disloyal behavior. Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story!
In the last chapter of the gospel of John, a few of the disciples decide to go fishing one night. Just around sunrise, a stranger calls out to them from the shore to see if they caught anything. When the disciples say no, the stranger tells them to cast their nets again on the right side of the boat. When the nets start filling with fish, Peter recognizes the stranger as Jesus and jumps into the sea to swim to his risen Lord.
After grilling up some fish seaside for breakfast, Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me?” Each time Peter responds, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Three times Peter denies Jesus, and three times Jesus gives Peter the opportunity to redeem himself. Peter is unfaithful to Jesus in his hour of need, and yet Jesus extends amazing grace to him and repairs their relationship.
In both of my recent mess-ups I apologized immediately and took steps to make it right even though I couldn’t fix it completely. And in both cases I received grace, grace that could’ve been withheld until I had rebuilt trust, grace that was amazing.
That’s not always the case. Sometimes you do everything you can do to fix your mistake and to take responsibility for the consequences of your actions, but not everyone extends grace as readily as Jesus, including myself! As a perfectionist, I have a tendency to mentally beat myself up for days or weeks when I make a mistake. Thankfully this doesn’t have to be the end of the story either.
As I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve been released from the burden of dwelling on mistakes. I know from Jesus’ example that God’s grace extends to all – even when we mess up really big, even when we mess up again and again. I can’t earn it. All I can do is receive it. These days I recover much more quickly from mistakes because I’m getting better at showing grace and kindness to myself. And when I mess up with a friend and they choose not to show me grace, I’ve learned to do all I can do to make it right and then trust the rest to God. Even when the relationship isn’t mended, I have a peace about it that I didn’t experience when I was stuck on my mistakes. That is grace, and it's amazing!
When was the last time you received unearned grace from someone? Is there someone in your life from whom you’re withholding grace? Is there an area of your life where you are withholding grace from yourself? I’d love to hear your responses below. And, as always, thanks for taking the time to read this post :)