Despite his love for Jesus, Peter had failed the test of faithful discipleship. He had denied and abandoned Jesus. Thus it was Peter’s own self-loathing rather than God’s judgement holding him back.
In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus teaches us to petition the Father – “forgive us as we have forgiven others”. (Luke 11:4) This “as we have” means in the same way or to the same degree. “The measure you give is the measure you get” (Luke 6:38)
Forgiveness is difficult and complex. It has many layers and many directions of relationship. We may need to forgive our parents for not being all we think we needed from them, and ourselves for not being all they hoped we would be. We may need to forgive our friends or neighbors for the way their choices negatively impacted our lives. And ourselves for how our own choices have harmed others or needlessly limited our possibilities. We may need to forgive God for not being who and what we thought, for not living up to what we’d been taught, for not fixing or healing or protecting as we’d expected. And ourselves for not living up to all that we know God hopes and dreams for our lives.
There is plenty of forgiveness to go around, and it is all interconnected. Failure to forgive in one area limits our ability to experience forgiveness in the others.
Forgive doesn’t mean to forget either, or excuse or say, “Oh, that’s ok.” Forgiving isn’t saying its ok. It is just the opposite. If it were ok, then forgiveness wouldn’t be needed. Forgiveness means saying, “That was wrong. AND I/we will not allow the past to define and limit the future. I CHOOSE to be free and to offer freedom INSPITE of the wrongs done.”
Forgiveness allows the pain to be redeemed and transformed, not erased as though the breach never occurred. Forgiveness honors the pain and brokenness far more than resentment, regret or revenge. Forgiveness proclaims that the good preceded and outshone the bad. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.” (John 1) Forgiveness may also need to be repeated. We often need to return more than once to these issues of our own forgiving and being forgiven. The healing may not be complete the first time.
Forgiveness needs to be enacted, embodied, incarnate. The risen Christ declares the forgiveness of God for humanity who rejected and killed Jesus. Jesus’ invitation to Peter, and Peter’s opportunity to act through loving and feeding Jesus’ followers, are manifestations of God’s forgiveness for Peter. Peter needed to participate and act out the forgiveness in thoughts, words and future behaviors. How might you enact forgiving and being forgiven in your life?