August 31, 2020

A Flawed Leader

John 13:36-38; 21:15-25

Peter . . . said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

—  John 21:17

Imagine living in the first or second century and hearing about Christianity. You learn about Jesus in the book of John, and about his followers and the early church (book of Acts). You even learn about Peter’s betrayal of Jesus (see John 19:15-27). And then you realize that Peter became a leader of the apostles and helped to start many churches.

How would that strike you? Would it fill you with confidence, knowing that this movement was led by an openly flawed guy who had turned his back on Jesus when things got difficult?

For some people, that might have been a deal-breaker. They might not have felt confident to be part of a movement led by this person with a past. People have a tendency to want to idealize leaders and expect them to be perfect. But John’s gospel makes it impossible to see Peter that way.

That’s exactly the point. John chose to include this story even though it makes a key figure in the early church look bad. In fact, John actually closes the book with this restoration story to highlight Jesus’ gracious attitude toward sinners. As readers, we are meant to see ourselves in Peter. His story is our story. And here we are left with a final reminder that our faith is not about us and what we do for God. Instead, it’s all about what Jesus has done for us, to show us who God is.

Father, help me, going forward, to live out the gospel of grace, showing the same undeserved love to others that you have shown to me. In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — A.J. Gretz

Anthony Joseph (A.J.) Gretz is a pastor in Grandville, Michigan. He has also served churches in Ohio and in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He and his wife, Anna, have three children.

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