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The Limits of Human Love: What Apostle Peter Knew

"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”." John 21:15

I can't remember my wedding vows, but I think they were pretty good. My husband and I wrote them after all. I'm sure we made some strong statements about what we would do and who we would be, but a much shorter ceremony could have been had if we'd both held hands, looked into each others eyes and solemnly said, “I'm going to try to be a pretty decent person, okay.” On most days that's about all that we can manage. Some days we are amazing people who demonstrate profound levels of sacrifice and sensitivity, but then there are moments when either or both of us have thought, “clearly this man/woman hates the day I was born.”

The love we think we are getting from our betrothed is tainted at best, and corrupted from top to bottom at worst. It's flawed, fickle and sometimes fleeting. It's usually quite rough when we find that out, especially when we find it out about ourselves. The Apostle Peter is a biblical figure that shows us just what a crushing blow that can be.

Peter is known for his extreme emotions. He was passionate, committed, and I personally believe that when Peter promised he'd do something, he was going to do it if it killed him. He's been cast as bold and brazen, but I don't think he was full of hot air. He loved from his belly and was unashamed to. He meant it when he told Jesus that he would never abandon him.

What Peter did not know is that he had not yet connected with the love that he knew was there; the love that was calling him into the deep. He had a ways to walk with the Spirit before he could actually do what he boasted of. So did Peter lie? No. He had yet to meet the test of his love, and that is true for every one who has declared love for anyone or anything. No matter if it is love for God, your spouse, or your work, it will be tested. It is when that test comes that you reach into your heart and find something inadequate or something supernatural.

When Peter reached in the first time he found that the love he boasted of was lacking; he crumbled before the gaze of judgmental, bloodthirsty onlookers while Jesus faced his final hours. Peter had love, that is certain, but not the love he thought was there. Until that precise moment, I doubt he knew that there was a difference. Passion can be confusing that way. It can feel like you'd walk through fire for someone, maybe even walk on water, until the testing comes.

Eventually, Peter had another opportunity to reach into his heart, when asked by his resurrected Lord, “Do you love me more than these” (John 21:15). This time Peter answered with awareness of his lack and with humility. According to the Amplified Bible, in this passage Jesus used the word love - meaning utter devotion, but Peter answered him, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you,” (John 21: 15) sing the word love - meaning deep affection. Peter made no boasts this time, he had failed Jesus once before. However, Jesus restored Peter; he knew him as the rock on which the church would be built. He knew that the Holy Spirit would come and yes, Peter would very soon love him beyond human ability, with utter devotion.

When we find ourselves like Peter, and our love for God or others fails to come up to the level that we desire; when tests come and we reach inward only to find something weak and inadequate, don't be alarmed. Let the despair give way to brokenness, surrender and humility. God is love, and only He can provide the depth and quality of love required to pass life's tests. Of this I am sure: ask and he will do this for you, as he did for Peter.

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