Sunday’s sermon was on Jesus “reinstating” Peter. This touching story was a powerful resolution to a difficult chapter in Peter’s life. He had abandoned and denied Jesus a short time before.
As I read this passage, I notice that John 21 reminds us of a very practical method to address the human conflict we often face. We obviously don’t always get along with family or friends. And to make matters worse, we usually struggle with truly resolving problems.
So what can Jesus teach us as he confronted his disciple Peter? Here’s one unique interpretation…
- Don’t sweep the problem under the rug!
Too often Christians think that concepts like “forgiveness” and “grace” mean we overlook past wrongdoings entirely. Perhaps you’ve felt pressured to move along without addressing a problem! When it comes to sorting out our issues with a fellow brother or sister, we should never sweep something under the rug.
Jesus clearly did not do this with Peter. He did not pretend like Peter had done nothing wrong. Instead, by asking him three times “Do you love me?” Jesus sought to address that original “problem” of denial! Likewise, when you are dealing with some kind of confrontation in your own life, don’t make the mistake of pretending like everything is fine when it is not. Be honest about the problem at hand!
- Focus on behavior, rather than judging other people.
When arguing with someone, how easy is it to rush to name-calling! This is a form of judgment, where we pretend to know what is in someone’s heart, and think that we are qualified to label and condemn.
Jesus, being the son of God, had every right to cast judgment on Peter. Yet I think Jesus modeled a powerful approach to conflict resolution for his followers. Instead of shaming Peter or telling him he was an awful disciple, Jesus sought to highlight actions. If you are confronting someone, try to focus on someone’s behavior instead of judging the person him or herself. The conversation turns to a dark place once either person feels as though they are being judged.
- Move forward with action.
This final point is rooted in the idea of being constructive, as opposed to destructive. Destruction tears something down or apart. Construction builds up. Jesus exemplified this in John 21 with practical commandments for Peter to follow. He instructed this once-wayward disciple to care for and feed God’s sheep.
As you deal with confrontation in your own life, work to move forward with some kind of better future. Too often we hold onto the past and criticize, which leaves both offender and offended stuck in the past. Work to improve actions, behavior, and words with the person you are confronting. Be constructive rather than destructive.
There are many ways to interpret Jesus reinstating Peter. This story obviously speaks to God’s radical grace and the second chances we can receive in life. Additionally, I think Jesus shows us a helpful way to handle confrontation. Follow the example of Christ the next time you encounter conflict!