Below is the final of three excerpts from chapter eleven of my forthcoming book Prone To Love. The chapter is entitled Sin. You can pre-order it on Amazon now. It releases February 18th and I can hardly wait! Identity > Behavior
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
These are some of the last instructions Jesus gives before going to the cross.
Peter’s response? “Lord, I am ready to go with You to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33).
I love Peter’s response—it’s beautiful. Peter was ready to die for Jesus. You know, many years later Peter actually does die for Jesus. But he wasn’t truly ready yet.
Jesus responds, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me" (Luke 22:34).
This conversation fascinated and confused me for years until I realized that Jesus said one thing and Peter heard something else. Jesus essentially said, “Pete, I’m praying your faith won’t fail,” and Peter heard, “Pete, I am praying that you don’t fail.”
Jesus wasn’t praying Peter wouldn’t sin or fail, that wasn’t His focus. Jesus was praying that after Peter gave his life in his own strength, after Peter radically misunderstood the situation, after Peter tried to murder someone in Jesus’s name, after Peter lived through the pain of three times denying the One he loved, after Peter lived through the death of his Teacher and Friend, after Peter lived under the soul-crushing guilt, the life-threatening shame, the horror of condemnation, the misery of anxiety, and the power of fear, after Peter sinned and absolutely failed, that he would still believe Jesus loved him.
Faith believes His love is greater still.
This interaction between Jesus and Peter was not about Peter’s capacity to sin; it was about Peter’s capacity to believe that Jesus’s love was greater than any sin. The focus was changing, the story was shifting, the reality of heaven was invading the reality of earth. Sinners were being given access to His righteousness, slaves where being transformed into sons and daughters.
Jesus was going to the cross so Peter could know the Father like He did and have access to the absolute power and authority of love. The cross would become the door through which Peter could know the redemption of mercy and the transformative power of grace.
Please get this: Jesus was praying and contending for Peter’s identity, not his behavior. I’m convinced the Christian life is not a measurement of good behavior, but instead is full access to a measureless love that transforms. It’s not about our failures, it’s not even about our sin; it’s about love, knowing and becoming.
Many days later, the resurrected Jesus walked a beach with His good friend Peter. Faith was restored through a revelation of love and Peter was transformed. On that beach, Jesus told Peter he would one day die for him. Peter was ready now, his salvation secured and his revelation true.
If we aren’t sure in the perfection of our Father’s always-good love, we can’t become sure in our new identity as saints. If we can’t become sure in our new identity as saints, then we will need to have our behavior monitored. If we need to have our behavior monitored, we will need to serve a controlling God. This completely undermines the cross. I kid you not.
In a world were sin is greater than love, there have to be laws and rules and police and armies and prisons to enforce and control behavior. Need demands that our whole society be structured around agreed-upon behavior.
When our focus is on not sinning, our understanding of the enemy is greater than our revelation of God’s love. Christians should never live more afraid of failing God than revealing love. If our ability to sin is greater than His ability to make us righteous, we have undermined the power of the cross.
When we live in a rule-based relationship with God, we will feel insecure by the truth that in Christ we aren’t sinners. When our relationship with Love is behavior-based, we will become apprehensive by the idea that sin is not the focus.
“If you smoke, don’t be shocked when you get cancer.” The fact is that has to be said when sin is the focus. But you know, our Father’s love trumps cancer, even when the cancer is the result of the sin of smoking.