After they had breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you burn with love for me more than these?”
Peter answered, “Yes, Lord! You know that I have great affection for you.”
“Then take care of my lambs,” Jesus said.
Jesus repeated his question the second time, “Simon, son of John, do you burn with love for me?”
Peter answered, “Yes, my Lord! You know that I have great affection for you!”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
Then Jesus asked him again, “Peter, son of John, do you have great affection for me?”
Peter was saddened by being asked the third time and said, “My Lord, You know everything. You know that I burn with love for you!”
Love for Jesus is a very evolving thing. Think of watching an old couple walking hand in hand down the street. Something happens inside of you, doesn’t it? First a smile comes onto your face and then a stirring wisdom that tells you this is a love born through storms and celebrations, deep valleys of suffering and shared joys. It’s a love that has weathered times of wondering if you are going to make it accompanied by down-on-your knees times, knowing you won’t without the grace of God. It’s most likely a love that shared new births, school graduations, weddings and grandchildren, sprinkled with disappointments and losses. The representation of deep soul love is what you are witnessing, an intimacy that has graduated beyond sex alone. A soul love that has shed demanding expectations…forming a steady flame of knowing and being known. A flame of loyalty birthed out of the fires of life.
In its purest form, love is so redeeming. Christ’s love is this kind of redeeming love. We read about Christ asking Peter three times if he loved him, in order to redeem each time he denied him. Christ knows that Peter loves him. Peter even tells Him that. “Lord, You know I have great affection for you.” “Lord, You know everything. You know that I burn with love for you.”
Our long love for Christ is grown through the ongoing redemption of Jesus. We become afraid and stumble in our loyalty…or fall flat on our faces. In a grace-filled space completely void of condemnation, we too hear Jesus say, “Do you love me, does your love for me burn in your heart?”
Jesus understands our humanity. He knows that our stumblings and failings don’t mean that we don’t love Him. We actually learn more of what it means to love Him through them. Jesus sees the evolving love in our hearts for Him and asks us to speak it out to know that it is there. It is growing, through all the same kinds of things as the old couple have walked through together. As Jesus calls out the love between you and Him (and me and Him!) He directs us in how to keep that love evolving. Live out of it. Serve out of it. Let it be and yet become more and more - a flame of loyalty birthed in the fires of life. Melded us together as one like aged hands clasped tightly, steps that have practiced a uniform expression like dancers through years of practice. The stumbles are hardly perceived as the other lends the strength needed to walk on.
Read the scriptures out loud and imagine Jesus asking you what He asked Peter.
What do you want to say in response?
Is there a place that you have stumbled or fallen on your face that is hindering you from knowing you still love Jesus? Are you being hindered from walking on in having love developed?
Can you hold this place with Jesus and believe that it is actually a place where love evolves a little deeper?
Too often I have thought my failures or interpretations of failures are places where I lose. But in Your kingdom, it is just isn’t that way. They are places of redemption – just like Peter’s. Love is actually developed as I taste your grace and redemption in these places. So, fill me with this peace in seeing it this way. Let my love for You ever evolve through the years into a steady flame, birthed out of the fires of life.
Photo by Bennett Tobias - Unsplashed