The Fourth of July is a day to celebrate freedom. Freedom from tyranny; freedom from oppression; freedom from persecution. Those of us who have the privilege to live in America understand that these freedoms come at a very high cost. The women and men who gave their lives saw a greater good, anticipating a future where their sacrifice – rather than an act of defeat and a reason to grieve – would inspire others to move forward, reach greater heights, and fight for freedom around the world.
Several years ago, our church staff used a YouVersion reading plan on the Gospels as the basis for our weekly staff worship time. We were at the end of the plan and discussing the moment when the disciples deserted Jesus and Peter’s denial. During our discussion, a comment was made that pointed out something I had never noticed before. (Isn’t it amazing how there’s always something new to find in Scripture?) It’s Luke 22:32:
“But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”
Before Peter (Simon) ever failed his Savior and denied him, Christ had already forgiven him. Not only had he forgiven him, he was affirming his value by tasking him to “strengthen your brothers.”
“Peter, you’re going to do a really bad thing, and you’ll feel horrible about it, but I love you and I forgive you, so don’t let that mistake define you. Leave it in the past, and I know you will do great things.”
And Peter did do great things, and to this day we are strengthened by his words.
Peter understood the great cost of his freedom. He knew that the sacrifice made on his behalf secured his salvation and a renewed relationship with his Creator.
We all experience failure. Sometimes on a daily basis we realize how far short we fall. But our failures, our shortcomings, do not define us. Jesus defines us. And we live in the freedom He provides to repent, turn to Him again, and strengthen others.