Jesus dealing with Peter failings leaves us with another example of how we can forgive those who hurt us or those who let us down. Perhaps, no New Testament disciple was more impulsive and unstable like Peter. What Jacob was in the Old Testament, Peter is in the New Testament – unstable Characters. But God forgave both of them and worked through them.
Right from the first encounter with Jesus by the Sea of Galilee, Peter looked a promising disciple. But two of his actions revealed how vulnerable Peter’s character was. First, was his denial of Jesus just before his crucifixion. Peter had given his word to Jesus that he would not deny him. He even boasted that if others denied Jesus he would not deny him. But when the chips were down, he denied Jesus three times in quick succession.
The second was his quick return to his fishing profession after the death of Jesus. Once he said to the other disciples, “I am going fishing,” the other disciples echoed, “We are going with you also.” This was an abandonment of his calling. To prove to his disciples that their calling required their total commitment rather than divided attention, they spent the whole night fishing but caught nothing. But, the next morning once Jesus appeared to them by the shore he asked them a simple question, “Children have you any food?” Their response was “No.” Jesus then said to them, “cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”
Rather than condemn Peter, Jesus went all out to restore him to fellowship. Thrice Jesus asked Peter if he loved him and went ahead to charge Peter to take care of his flock. Jesus never referred to the incidence of the past with Peter, but assigned him the responsibility of taking charge of his Church. Jesus demonstrated his love for Peter despite his shortcomings. This is the unconditional love Jesus has for all his children.
WHAT JESUS TAUGHT ON FORGIVENESS.
Jesus taught a lot about forgiveness. But beyond his teachings, he demonstrated what true forgiveness is at the cross; the way he handled the woman caught in adultery and the way he treated the woman who anointed his feet in the house of Simon.
In Lk.11:4, Jesus taught his disciples to pray thus: “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is Indebted to us…..” Then in Mk.11:25-26, he taught this: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” He taught also that those who sin against us as much as seven times in a day should be forgiven if they repent. (Lk.17:3, 4).
THE BURDEN OF UNFORGIVENESS
Unforgiveness hinders our progress and affects our spiritual wellbeing. The lack of forgiveness hurts the aggrieved and hinders his prayer. Unforgiveness destroys relationships. We need forgiveness in the house of God. Spouses need to forgive one another. Parents need to forgive their children and vice versa. We need forgiveness in the workplace between bosses and their staff, among colleagues and among partners. We need forgiveness in the nation. How would the world be without forgiveness? How would life be without forgiveness?
Much of the broken relationships and disharmony we find in the home, the workplace and the society at large can only be healed if we forgive one another the way Jesus did.