John 21:15-17 (New Living Translation)
After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”
In God’s kingdom, relationship trumps performance. God’s first and greatest commandment is not to live a perfect life but to love him with all our heart, soul, and mind. He is less interested in our list of good deeds than he is in our answer to his simple question, Do you love Me?
In the above passage, Peter had denied Jesus three times and was undoubtedly still stinging from the memory of his betrayal. Jesus could have simply dismissed him and passed on the responsibility of church leadership to another disciple. But Jesus knew the depth and sincerity of Peter’s love for him. In this dialogue he forces Peter to move past his feelings of remorse and to refocus on the source of strength and wisdom that Peter would need to do God’s work in the early church—his love and close fellowship with his Lord.
Likewise, the strength and wisdom we need to meet our daily struggles come from our fellowship with God. A strong and sure connection with God strengthens our identity in him. It frees us from feeling controlled by our most troublesome relationships and those problems we feel helpless to solve.
Although we may be tempted to blame others for the pain and distress we feel over a conflict, we might do better to examine our relationship with God and ask ourselves, How well do I love my Lord? Is there a part of my heart, my soul, or my mind that I have been withholding from him? How might surrendering that part of myself to God change me and the way I approach this relationship problem? Is God calling me to love this person with a love only he can give me?
FATHER, like Peter I have failed you in so many ways. I ask for faith to trust in your love for me and your forgiveness that covers all my failings. Teach me to love you more each day. Reveal the hidden parts of me that slip into my relationships and cause trouble. Thank you for your healing wisdom and your faithful love that never stops pursuing me.
Psalm 86:11-13; Matthew 22:37-38
How can deepening your fellowship with God help you handle a difficult human relationship?