“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and myself founded empires; but what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? – Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire on love; and at this hour millions would die for Him.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
Love – Love has been largely manipulated word in our society. We have aligned it with obsession, desire, lust, avarice, pleasure and a variety of experiences which mutate and pervert the sense of what love truly is. There is a place of true understanding in light of what love is and what our response to love should be. Love responds love. Acting in love is doing what is best for the object of love. Love is selfless in its pursuits. As we come into contact with a true, mature perspective of love and its actual nature, we find the epitome of experience in the person of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We know it in provision and sustenance. Understanding this love in a manner which responds giving our lives to Him is a path to feeling the deepest fulfilling peace and contentment that our minds and hearts can experience. After all, we were created to love the Lord and enjoy his presence forever. It rings true to the core of our being to experience the affection and unification with Him who our hearts find completion in.
In deeply knowing the love of the Father, we experience his transformation of our lives by his grace as we interact with his Son. We can see an amazing example of this in the life of the Apostle Peter. The bumbling, running before he crawled, emotionally frenetic, impetuous and insecure, faith dwindling disciple who became the “Rock” of the people of Christ after he came to understand the love of his Lord. We see Peter as outspoken and ready to jump in with both feet. He was excited and raring to go! He was a tad foolhardy, but he had desire – He was bold! He left the boat to walk on the water in belief, but the faith to keep his steps secure was lost in the sea around him. This is the Peter, who knew the first hand love of Christ and acknowledged Him as the Son of God; who believed with all his heart in Christ the Savior of the world. When Peter was with Christ, he was safe, he was bold, he was outspoken and he felt strong in the power of the Messiah. At this point, he had tactile reasons of why to follow the Great Teacher and experience of the miracles of the Savior. This is the Peter of tallying rules of the experiencing the Savior, and crating the cosmic checklist of being a follower of Him. ***Love your neighbor – Check. (Wait a tick, Jesus, who is my neighbor?) Forgive my neighbor, love my enemies – Check. Check. (Hold on, Jesus, who is the greatest in the kingdom?)*** This is the Peter who knew the Savior because he was around the Savior. He experienced Him and was trying to do what he should to gain the favor of the Savior. Fortunately for Peter, a significant transformation wholly in the power of God would radically alter his reality and his perception of Christ and the identity of what it was to be his disciple. Peter would come face to face with doing on behalf of the Savior and embrace the weakness in his own power as he denied the one he so fervently loved. This example is from one who was in the physical presence of Christ the Savior, that it is not we who change ourselves to be like Him. In his own strength, he was just Peter; afraid of the consequences of not abiding by the right set of Godly rules, not willing to acknowledge the ineffectiveness of what he could do for Christ (or in general as a not so profitable fisherman.) He was mixed in the clutter of his understanding, acceptance and promotion that Christ was the Savior, and because he knew that to be true, it reserved him favor and position of security. Instead of allowing the salvific power of Christ to change who he was; Peter used the ideas and the experience of hearing the teaching of the Savior, to meter the actions he would enact on behalf of Christ.
The culmination we see of Peter acting under his own power is in his denial of Christ. Fortunately for all of us, the Lord is abounding in grace, mercy and understanding as we flail about in our lives trying to do what we think we should be doing – especially when we find ourselves flat on our face as a result… The reconciliation of Peter’s denial is enacted with words of love, and exemplified by the transformation of his entire understanding of Christ. Peter relinquished the rank and duty of the concept of following the principles relayed to him by a Savior, for the open ears of his Lord confirming his love and refocusing his heart on the interaction of love. He stopped Peter in his tracks. He halted the focus of what he knew about a Savior and brought him face to face with the love of Christ the Lord. Christ the Savior knew the Peter who brashly cuts the ear from the soldier, yet denies the Son of Man he never knew. Christ the Lord knew the “Rock” of who He made Peter to be and changed Peter’s endless attainment of righteousness to an understanding of love and what it is to be overcome by his Lordship. The amazing part of Christ’s interjection is that, in his true knowledge and love of his creation, did not want Peter to so naively know himself or his Savior. Instead of Peter going forth spreading the actions of salvation and the words of conversion, he was intensely touched with the life-changing Lordship of Christ’s love, which transformed his interpretation of reality and made him distinctly different than those who had never known the deep love of Christ. He went from knowledge of the requirements for salvation to an understanding of his nearness to the heart of the Father, due to the Father’s love. He was moved from the ability to share ideas and information with others, to the capability of echoing the love and Lordship which defined his life to those he came into contact with. He was so moved by the love he found his heart’s completion in, that he spent some 35 years until his death relaying the omnipotent love of Christ in providing the possibility for us to know the Father, and how we should then live.
In Peter’s experience of Christ asking about his love for Him, he experienced the purpose behind the transition of knowing the Savior of the world. Christ desired for Peter to be radically changed by his love and restoration, not change himself to a version of knowledge of his love and restoration. Christ’s love covers us in a way which responds to our deep need to be filled and transformed by the love of the Father and glory of the Lord, which is the essence of purpose in our creation. And in this purpose, we intimately know the love of the Father, revealed in sending his only Son to be the means by which we can experience nearness to Him and be freed from the penalty of sin. By Jesus’ death we are freed. This is the Lord whom Peter knew, was near to, and followed even to his own death. Christ was at work changing his heart so that the Savior would become the Lord of his life. It is the Lord of his life who asked him to feed his sheep out of love. Peter was transformed from the checklist of what it would take to do great things for the Great Teacher, to share the love of his Lord which allowed him to show the transforming reality of love to others caught in the mere concept of a salvific Messiah.
Knowing the difference in our own hearts of Savior and Lord is the path to peace and purpose in our lives. As Brennan Manning puts it, “To continue to eye God primarily in terms of laws, obligations, and civic ordinances represents a retreat to a pre-Christian level of thought and a rejection of Jesus Christ and the total work his redeeming work.” For with the transforming foundation of love, the Lord brings our hearts nearer to his. He brings us out of our anxiety, striving and the fear of relying upon our own strength, to the sovereign arms of care that bring peace which transcends understanding. We know Him to be our Savior, but let us allow his love to transform our lives as He becomes our Lord. In the core of who we are, we can resonate with being identified in the heart of the Lord and bringing that interaction to the reality of our character. Knowing his love as the foundation of who we are brings his true Lordship into our relationships with Him, ourselves and those around us. In allowing Him to change our hearts, we hear the new name he has for us. As we go from the concepts of knowing who he is to being transformed into the men and women whose reality is determined and defined in his love and restoration. Let us emulate the Rock, Peter became in ceasing to reflect ourselves in this world and bearing the life-changing character of Christ who is glorified, who is Lord.