Question for the group: Have you ever thought either, “That person will never be a Christian with all the bad things he’s done/believed/said,” or “There’s no way that person actually became a Christian after all the bad things he’s done/believed/said.”
You don’t have to raise your hand. Pretty sure we’ve all had a thought like that at one point or another.
There are lots of examples of that type of person. The bad ones like the person at work who spends all their time gossiping and backstabbing. The really bad ones who don’t have the same political beliefs as you (or beliefs about masks and vaccines? Really?). The really really bad ones who are racist or just generally hateful to others. The super bad ones who are on death row for murder. And the ultimate baddies who deny Christ three or more times in the same night.
That last guy sounds familiar.
“Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.”
That’s not just a bad look for Peter. That’s full on denial of the Son of God. That’s the sin that all other sins are built upon. A person doesn’t willfully commit adultery or theft or murder without at least implicitly denying Christ. And yet, here’s Peter, the guy Jesus said He would build His church on, denying Christ three times in one night.
If there was ever a person we should condemn, that’s our guy. And yet, Christ didn’t do that. After He died and resurrected, one of Jesus’s stops was to visit Peter and six other disciples. They were back at their pre-“disciples of the Son of God™” job, fishing on the Sea of Tiberias. It’s during this exchange that we see how Christ deals with Peter.
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’”
There’s a lot going on in this conversation, more than one blog post’s worth. Here’s the main idea, and the thing we can take away from this exchange. Jesus reminds Peter of his sin when He asks Peter three times if he loves Him. That’s the same amount of times that Peter denied Christ. But Christ isn’t just leaving him in his sin. He’s giving Peter the chance to repent, which Peter does. And then He gives Peter instructions. Yes, Peter does love Jesus, so he is to go and care for others who do as well.
I heard a quote recently. I don’t remember who said it or how it goes exactly, so I can’t attribute it. But my paraphrase is:
No one is so good that they don’t need to be saved. And no one is so evil that they can’t be saved.
Is it our place to judge non-Christians on their sin? No, it’s not. Instead, we should love them and share the good news with them. And when they repent, we should rejoice that another brother or sister was adopted into our heavenly family! Should we judge other believers who are living in sin? Yup. But that’s a different conversation for a different day.
By Rob Trahan