Our Necessary Failure: Room Enough!

Our Necessary Failure: Room Enough!

Do you also find it difficult to trust someone who hasn’t faced failure?

I don’t mean someone who hasn’t failed – because we all have, at some point, and probably often, it’s what most of us do best – I’m speaking about trusting someone who fails but doesn’t admit it!

…never prepared to go there! And again, I don’t mean someone with really low self-esteem or who is always complaining about how worthless they believe they are – but people without a clear and sober sense of their own most profound imperfection!

Because people who are not prepared to do that are dangerous! That’s what I remember my mother warning me against… Because when those people DO fail as we all invariably do – they are unable to take responsibility for that and so will tend to blame all and any and every one who is within their grasp.  Know people like that? OMG, am sometimes like that? Please God, no…

But when we are prepared to go there – be open-eyed, honestly realistic about facing our own acknowledged and worked-through imperfections… AHH! Now there’s the foundation for real strength! Leadership strength! …and there’s someone I can trust!

Peter was such a person. His initial associations with Jesus as they went through all of what they did as disciples for some 3 years gave him ample room to demonstrate what he was made of! According to Matthew[i]it was his virtually immediate response to Jesus’ invitation to leave his nets and follow, while in John’s Gospel[ii]it was his response to his brother Andrew’s bringing him to Jesus… Either way… Peter’s journey with Christ began as an instinctive and compelling obedience…

And then came that awesome blurting of Christ’s identity[iii]in answer to Christ’s question of

‘who do people say I am?’ ‘You are the Christ, Son of the Living God!’ …to which we have Jesus’ almost impressed/taken by surprise: Wow! Blessed are you Simon…’and his name change to ‘Peter’ the Rock!

All of this describes a fiery, impulsive, confident Peter who while enthusiastically a disciple – was not yet ready to be a leader of Christ’s church as described in our beautiful reading today…

St Peter found that he was only finally commissioned by Christ as a leader NOTwhile soaring with all his super-confidence but AFTER he had his 3X denial and realization of his own most profound brokenness as that damning cock crowed his utter failure…

By mentioning an ANTHRAKIAN – ανθρακιαν– an ‘anthracite’ or ‘coal fire – just twice[iv] in his Gospel John was quite deliberately using a smell-association device – it’s as if John was wanting intentionally to connect Peter’s realization of failure to his becoming useful to Our Lord… Linking his three times denial to his three times commissioning!

What does all that mean for us today? It’s as if we are only really useful to God once we acknowledge our weakness. This is spelt out even further for us with a closer look at Peter’s commissioning on that beach alongside the sea of Galilee…

Peter, do you love me? Our English texts typically use the same word for ‘love’ in all of this passage… But not in the original texts…The Greek word that Jesus used to describe ‘love’ in this passage is ‘AGAPE’, but it doesn’t stay like that, it changes to ‘FILEO’. As a result, The Living Bible has probably a better translation of this passage…

15 After breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others?”[d] “Yes,” Peter replied, “you know I am your friend.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon, son of John, do you really love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I am your friend.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 Once more he asked him, “Simon, son of John, are you even my friend?” Peter was grieved at the way Jesus asked the question this third time.

 “Lord, you know my heart;[e] you know I am,” he said. Jesus said, “Then feed my little sheep.

It’s as if Jesus NEEDED him to go there, before… Elsewhere, Jesus told them[v],“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

It seems that unless and until we are able to own our lack of holiness, that how what we do best in our own strength is fail, we remain quite useless – to God!

Scripture is full of examples of leaders who were especially empowered by God only once they embraced the reality of their failure: David, Samson and Paul who wrote of his boasting in his weaknesses – for it’s when I am weak that I am strong![vi]

What we learn:(1) None of us are perfect, and not only do we not have to be perfect, but that it is even essential that we acknowledge and embrace our imperfection!

Perfectly Imperfect, yet perfectly loved! (2) It’s once we are able to embrace our weakness that we seem most to be equipped to embrace God’s Spirit/ strength…

We’re talking about the gift of our needing to embrace our most essential vulnerability…

…and unless we get that, we’re NOT EQUIPPED TO RECEIVE ANYTHING! Folks, all of this means that there is room for us! As we plan and dream and lean into all of what is ahead for us, both as individuals as well as a community about to have our ACM… THERE’S ROOM… for God to do whatever it is that God intends to see being done in us, for others and for all creation, through us……THERE’S ROOM…


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[i]Matthew 4:18,19

[ii]John 1:37

[iii]Matthew 16:13-20

[iv]John 18:18 and John 21:9

[v]Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31; Matthew 9:12

[vi]2 Corinthians 12:9-11