Read John 21:15-17
15 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.” Jesus said to him,”Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him,”Simon son of John,do you love me?” He said to him,”Yes,Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him,”Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time,”Simon son of John,do you love me?” Peter felt hurt 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. (NRSV)
We might have expected this to be the ‘exit interview’. Peter had loudly declared his loyalty to Jesus prior to his crucifixion and just as loudly betrayed him. Now the risen Jesus might get the final say. Peter had his chance and blew it. Now there was a world to win,a kingdom to extend,a mission to be accomplished. No room for slackers or hypocrites.
But this is not ‘the real world’. This is Jesus,as usual turning things upside down. This passage reminds us that the way of following Jesus is the way of imperfection. The only perfect human being who ever lived chooses imperfect people to achieve his purposes. Of course he does: they are only types of people he can call upon!
Beware of those who suggest that trying that bit harder,reading that book,attending that conference,hearing that speaker,will somehow enable us to leap over our human fallibility. There is no magic cure of immaturity,no secret key to unlock the door to moral perfection. We live on the landscape of human imperfection and it is in that landscape that we follow Jesus. We daily confess our shortcomings and daily seek his strength.
This is no recipe for despair or hopelessness. It is rather an opportunity to throw ourselves again and again on the grace and power of God,to receive more readily the help of the Spirit of God. Just as Peter did shortly after at Pentecost. To be imperfect is not to be useless.