One of Jesus’ teachings that I find most difficult to obey is loving the way he asks us to love—to truly love our enemies, our neighbors, and ourselves. I often asked myself how I could possibly love someone who had committed heinous crimes against humanity. Or how can I love my neighbor, whose nightly food cravings result in the ringing of my doorbell at 3:00 a.m. because she gave the deliveryman the wrong apartment number? And how can I love myself when I can’t seem to let go of past resentments?
I found an answer to these questions when reading a conversation between Peter and Jesus, after Jesus’ resurrection. I noticed something I had never noticed before.
Peter was one of Jesus’ beloved disciples, and he is frequently mentioned by name in the Gospels. He was impetuous and forthright. He was the one who stepped out of the boat to walk across the water when Jesus told him to, and he recognized Jesus as the Christ, a recognition that is the foundation of the Christian Church. And yet, in the tumult of Jesus’ arrest and trial, and beset by a threatening crowd, Peter was afraid, and denied three times that he was a follower of Jesus.