Accepting Forgiveness | Family Devotional | Constant Source Weekly
This year we are publishing the main section of a current issue of Constant Source Weekly to our blog each month. Each blog entry will include the main commentary for that week’s issue, questions to help you reflect and internalize the lesson, and connection points to help you engage with your family in conversations about the things you are learning about God. It is our hope that this would be a year where more families around the world prioritize seeking Christ together and would exhibit His life and love to those around them. If you want to take a look at last month’s issue, check out our post entitled Renewal.
Read John 21:1-19
(Every Constant Source Weekly is inspired by four pieces of Scripture from all different parts of the Bible. One of those texts becomes the main foundation for the lesson and is interwoven throughout. Start by reading the text linked above.)
(Every Scripture reading is paired with a commentary section that explains the core themes of the passage, discusses the way the reading informs our faith, and helps interconnect all parts of the Bible. Read that next below.)
Our passage today opens on a scene that feels really familiar. Anyone who has heard the origins story of the disciples knows that the first among them encountered Christ in a fishing boat just like in John 21. In fact, the story is similar all the way down to the detail that they aren’t catching the fish that they set out to entrap in their nets. The parallelism that we see in this story with the other calling of the disciples stories found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke begs the question: what is the same and what has changed? Before Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, all of humanity was a slave to their sinful nature, the final conclusion of which was death. But because of Jesus, we have been given the chance of new life. In light of Holy Week, everything has changed for the disciples and for us.
To get a full picture of what is going on here, we must highlight verse 1. It points out that throughout this story, Jesus is revealing Himself to the disciples again. As we discussed last week, Jesus revealed Himself to the disciples in the upper room, and the same Thomas who was at the center of our story last week is present in our passage today. The bottom line is that this isn’t the first time that the disciples have seen Jesus. The reason that this detail is so important is because it sets the stage for our interpretation of Peter’s actions. In light of knowing that their mentor and friend rose from the grave, at Peter’s behest, the disciples went fishing. In other words, they returned to their old ways and what they knew.
I don’t know about you, but this moment creates a lot of tension in my very being. On one hand, I cannot believe the response of Peter, and on the other, his response resonates deeply because I know that I’ve chosen to act in the same way. It’s hard to believe that after walking side by side with Jesus, after witnessing His death and then experiencing His resurrected body, Peter could choose to return to his old life. But when we remember Peter’s denial of Christ, things become clear for us because we all know the impact that guilt (the feeling we have after we do something that we know is wrong) and shame (the wrong actions that we internalize as identity statements) have on our lives.
The similarities to the disciples’ origin story end in verse 6, and the main takeaway begins to unfold in Peter’s reaction to Jesus. In verses 7-14, Peter jumps out of the boat and swims to shore to encounter Jesus. In verse 15, after sharing a meal together, Jesus asks Peter a question three times that would forever change his life. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” After answering the same way three times, “You know I love you,” Jesus reinvites Peter to follow Him.
As retrospective readers of this story, we know that Jesus had died and rose again, wiping Peter clean of his sin, before Jesus and Peter’s conversation on the beach. In other words, Jesus had already forgiven Peter for his denial, but this exchange created space for confession and reparation, which led to Peter being able to forgive himself. In repeating his love for Jesus three times, Peter undoes his betrayal one line at a time, which ultimately allows him to accept the forgiveness that Jesus is offering him. Upon accepting Jesus’s forgiveness, Peter’s shameful identity as denier falls away to once again be replaced by his identity as a follower of Christ.
As I alluded to above, I think we all face the temptation to act as Peter did in light of our sinful actions and behavior. Because of Easter, we all know in our heads that we have been forgiven, but many have not accepted that in our hearts. We are tempted to fall back into comfortable routines or habits as avoidance mechanisms, so that we don’t have to face the things we feel guilty about, or worse, the shame that is reshaping our identities. And the problems that develop are two-fold. First, avoidance mechanisms often lead to reclusion, which means that instead of participating in the intimacy we were created for, we fall into isolation. Second, we end up turning away from the flourishing life that God has for us by neglecting our call or stepping out of the transformative work that God is doing in our lives. It is not enough to know that we’ve been forgiven; it is only through recognizing and accepting forgiveness as a reality in every facet of our lives that we will experience the freedom that Jesus has for us. Sometimes acceptance is as simple as a silent confirmation of believing that you have been forgiven, but like Peter, confession and reparation allow us to accept what Jesus has already done for us. Remember, Jesus has already forgiven you for the sin that you have committed and the sin you have yet to commit. No amount of work or actions will earn you forgiveness. It’s freely given. The question is whether or not you will accept it and live into your identity as a follower of Christ.
(The reflection section provides prompts to help you think through what God is teaching you and how it applies to the world around you. Take 3-5 minutes to ponder and respond to each question below. We recommend keeping a journal to write in, so that you can revisit it later.)
Where in your life do you still harbor guilt or shame?
What does accepting the forgiveness that has already been extended to you through Jesus Christ look like in your life?
What habits of comfort do you return to as a mechanism of avoidance, and how can you choose intimacy over isolation?
(This section provides tools and starting points to discuss what you’ve learned and processed through above with your family.)
Pray: “Lord, may we be people that are quick to forgive and quick to accept forgiveness. May we be quick to apologize and never allow our mistakes to define who we are. Help us to remember that you have forgiven us for all of our sins, so that we can rest in the fact that we are your children. We love you, Lord. Amen.”
Share: Share Peter’s story with your family. Talk about the way that he denied that he knew Jesus and how even when he saw Jesus come back to life, he didn’t know how to get rid of his guilt and shame for what he had done. Share a time in your life where your guilt made it hard for you to interact with others.
Wonder: Ask your kids if they’ve ever felt like this, like they couldn’t approach a friend because there was unresolved tension over something that had happened. Wonder together what it would have been like for Peter to see Jesus on the beach, and then explain that when Peter accepted Jesus’s forgiveness, he was able to move forward in the mission that God had for him.
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