Do you ever get embarrassed when you are praying for forgiveness from God? You sinned. You know He is aware of that sin. When you 1 John 1:9 it, calling sin exactly what God calls it, He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse… but saying those words: “Lord, forgive me for being murderous at heart because I’ve hated my brother or sister,” “Lord, forgive me for being an idolator, loving what this world has to offer more than a relationship with You,” “Lord, forgive me for being an adulterer at heart, having lusted after someone other than the spouse You graciously gave to me,” … … when those words roll off of your tongue, they often produce a level of embarrassment and shame. Thanks be to God that He forgives and cleanses. And thanks be to God that He compassionately leads us into restoration so that we might also forgive ourselves.
Peter was ashamed and embarrassed. He denied Jesus three times only a few days ago. Reading this account from Luke’s gospel in chapter 23, we come to understand that the last image of Jesus in Peter’s head was when the rooster crowed and Jesus turned to look at Peter. Peter “went outside and wept bitterly,” (Luke 23:62). Since that night, Peter carried an incredible load. Guilt. Shame. Embarrassment.
In John 27, verses 15-17, we see one of the most amazing displays of Christ’s forgiveness and restoration. Three times Peter denied Jesus. Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter was able to reaffirm his love for Jesus, after having denied that he even knew Jesus what seemed like only moments before.
Jesus’ forgiveness wasn’t a process. We need to understand this. The Lord forgave Peter at the very moment Peter acknowledged his sin. But Peter was hard on himself. He was having a difficult time forgiving himself. So Jesus, seeing Peter’s shame and embarrassment, took the time to restore him gently.
Also important here is that Jesus gave Peter not only forgiveness, but purpose. Jesus knew that Peter loved him. He didn’t have to ask. Verse 15 is clear about that. But every time Jesus asked Peter to confirm his love, Jesus responded with a direct command.
Peter: “I love you, Lord.”
Jesus: “Then feed my sheep.”
There was work to be done. Peter was to play a major role in the establishment of the New Testament church. In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus told Peter that he would use him to build His church. Looking in the Book of Acts, we see in chapters 2, 8, and 10 that Peter was present at the Pentecost of every major geographical and cultural outpouring of the Holy Spirit, save only that of the Pentecost at Ephesus. Peter and his confession of Christ Jesus as the Messiah were the building blocks of the New Testament Church. And if Peter were to move on from his self-degradation in John 21, he was going to have to understand the completeness and finality of God’s forgiveness and restoration. Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep.” “Peter, you are restored, forgiven, reconciled. I have a plan for you, and I want you to get past this hiccup in your spiritual walk so that you can fulfill my plans for your life. Peter, I know you love me. Feed My sheep.”
1. In your own life, you’ll need to confess sin, and move on. God has incredible plans for your life too, Christian. But two things usually bring those plans to a skidding halt. (A) Pride – not confessing that sin is sin. Forgiveness is needed, and confession is required. Call sin what it is. (B) Prolonged shame and/or embarrassment. When Jesus forgives, His forgiveness is complete. If you are struggling with moving on after a certain sin, can you see how the Lord may be giving you ample opportunity to choose righteousness instead of disobedience? It’s not penance – not that you have to “work off” your sin. Jesus forgives and cleanses at the moment of confession. But many times, He’ll give you an opportunity to prove to yourself that you can choose to be obedient by depending on His power working through you. If you’ve sinned… Confess. And move on.
2. Others Christians will disappoint you. Forgive them, encourage them, and remind them of their call to work for kingdom expansion and gospel propagation. When a Christian sins and asks God for forgiveness, spiritual elitists will constantly remind him or her of that sin and how awful it was; they will constantly massage those feelings of shame and embarrassment that the forgiven offender is working so hard to move beyond. But Christians, having understood their own failure and forgiveness, will not entertain the desire to exhume forgiven sin in others; they will extend a gracious hand of forgiveness, a gentle spirit of restoration, and an encouraging word of reminder. There is work to be done for the kingdom of God. Instead of exhuming or churning the forgiven sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s be about the Father’s business.
Grace and Peace,