Love and Forgiveness

John 21: 15-19
Acts 25: 13b-21 / Ps 103

Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?
(John 21:15)

How much we love our Lord Jesus
Depends on how we care for His sheep;
From our sins His grace has freed us,
His forgiveness a treasure we'll keep.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time He said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:15-19)

Reflection

Jesus never admonished Peter for denying Him three times. And Peter did not have to ask Jesus to forgive him for these denials. All that was needed was for Peter to affirm his love for the Lord from the heart. And as Jesus told Simon, the Pharisee, whoever has been forgiven much loves as much —as the sinful woman’s great love for Jesus had shown. “But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47) Eventually, Peter’s great love was manifested in tending the great flock of the Lord – His early Church.

Forgiveness is an act of God’s grace to forget and no longer hold the offender accountable for the sins he has committed. Forgiveness has both divine and human dimensions. In the divine dimension, it is the gracious act of God by which we have been restored into a right relationship with Him and redeemed from spiritual death through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. Without this grace from God, our lives as Christians would be “out of synch” and tormented with guilt. In the human dimension, forgiveness is the attitude towards one who has wronged us by which we restore the relationship by acts or words of acceptance and reconciliation.

To err is human; to forgive is divine.” In the Book of Numbers, 14:18, we read: “The LORD is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression.” God is all-forgiving because of His Divine Mercy. But does it mean our sins do not really matter, because God will forgive them anyway? Of course not. Sin is the opposite of God’s nature and it hurts Him deeply – it violates His principle of love and righteousness and God could never allow that! Does divine forgiveness mean that God will keep us from suffering the consequences of our sins? Perhaps that’s really what we want God’s forgiveness to do for us — to save us from the harm we’ve caused others and ourselves through our sin. But God’s forgiveness will not automatically cancel out sin’s harmful effects – there is also after all, Divine Justice that we will have to contend with. What is divine forgiveness, then? – it is God’s grace removing sin as the barrier between Himself and us – it brings us back once more into a loving relationship with God- and more importantly, it will keep us from the eternal consequence of our sin – total alienation from Him. We should only be so grateful that no sin is greater than God’s capacity to forgive!

Father God, our sins are a great disgrace to Your love and mercy. Thank You for the grace of keeping us away from sin, and Your forgiveness that has made us love You and Jesus our Lord, and the Holy Spirit more and more each day. Amen.

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