A good friend of mine was recently discussing a well-quoted verse of the Bible with me, over a well-worn cup of coffee and some well-positioned snacks. Many of us have it on a piece of old wood which now looks perfect hanging in your hallway, or maybe printed in scrolling letters across your living room wall, (Oh, how I love me some Bible verses on an old piece of wood).
Train your children in the way they should go, and when they are old, they shall not depart from it.
We were deciding if this was a promise for salvation or simply a promise for purpose in life. Two different opinions were left sitting beside our half-eaten bananas. It was not until this morning, when I was reading of Peter’s famous betrayal of Christ that the rooster crowed and something really important clicked for me and this verse. Here is the scene:
1. “Do you know him?” NO
2. “Do you know him?” NO
3. “Do you know him?” NO
Three times Peter denied knowing the Lord. Why? This has so many answers, so many reasons. Commentators love to discuss the “why” of this question. But, the meat and potatoes of this situation is that when Peter was asked if he knew Jesus, his life was on the line. They had already arrested Jesus and were circling for the kill. Peter was afraid for his life, and so, he denied knowing Jesus.
Fast-forward in your Bible from John 18 to John 21. Jesus has already risen from the grave and is walking on the beach of the Sea of Galilee with Peter. Peter is wet from jumping out of the boat and swimming to shore to be with Jesus. Jesus is giving Peter the answer to his weak constitution. That day on the beach, Jesus asks Peter three more questions…
1. “Do you love me?” YES
2. “Do you love me?” YES
3. “Do you love me?” YES
Reading that this morning, it clicked for me. Love. Love was the answer. Not some hippie version of love, that cheapens life to the façade of tolerance, but the love that God calls us to live out. You see, love is the most powerful emotion, most powerful action, most powerful truth we have. For love we will fight any foe, for love we will slay the dragon, face the multitudes and willingly lay down our lives. But will we do this for someone we simply know? No. Peter denied knowing Christ when the cost was too great, when fear was suffocating him, and the walls of this world were closing in around him. But, Jesus knew the death that Peter would one day face. And for that…to stand and not run away, to give everything, to die for the gospel, he would need love.
So my prayer for my children, for me, and for our church is that we learn to love Jesus. For only love will sustain us when the trails come, only love will produce endurance which produces character and steadfastness. We must train our children to LOVE Jesus, not to simply know about him. And how do we do that? You must be thinking, we can’t produce that….only Jesus can do that. You are exactly right. We can’t produce that…but we can lead them to the one who can.
Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me.” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”