Let mutual affection continue.

Hebrews 13:1 (NRSV)

“I really don’t like him at all.”

Peter and John were walking behind Jesus, their heads close together. They had just begun their journey to Jerusalem for the Passover, and Peter’s feelings were running high. “But I guess so long as I keep forgiving him,” and here Peter rolled his eyes towards their Rabbi, “I’m doing right by him.”

John was pensive. They called him a Son of Thunder, along with his brother, and he was passionately sympathizing with his friend. Yet something was troubling him about what Peter was saying. So often, their Rabbi had gone beyond the Law to a “law” of love.

At just this moment, Jesus slowed His pace while turning His head to speak to the two disciples trailing behind Him. “Peter,” He said.

Peter’s head jerked up, startled.

“Do you love Me?”

Peter nodded quickly and swallowed.

“Do I love you?”

Jesus’s question arrested Peter in mid-step.

“What do You mean, Lord?”

“If I forgive you, Peter, but do not like you, is this love?”

“But he has wronged me, time and again! He takes advantage of me because he knows I must forgive. How can I make myself like such a person, let alone love?!”

Jesus nodded, slowly and gravely, letting Peter’s cry of hurt linger in the air.

“This kind of love does not come from your own heart, Simon, but comes from God above, Who will fill the hearts of all My own with God’s own Spirit and Person, including God’s infinite and eternal love. It is this love you are to have.”

John understood. “We love because He first loved us,” he said to Peter. (1 John 4:19)

Later, Peter would teach his own students, “Your spirits having been purified in obedience to the truth for unfeigned, sincere familial love (philadelphia): from such a heart love (agape) one another fervently.” Spiritual wisdom would know what was best for each occasion, for everyone. (1 Peter 1:22)

Oh Lord, there are those who have wronged us, sometimes irreparably so if it were not for Your own supernatural healing in our hearts and spirits. Please give us wisdom to love as You do, to love from purified hearts, to do and be right before You and others, and also ourselves. To the praise of Your glory and grace, and for the good of all whom You love, amen.

Saint Peter (1650) by Guercino, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento | By GuercinoPublic Domain

[A fable inspired by the Gospels]

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