I once heard it explained in a sociology class that guilt is when we fail ourselves, but shame is when we fail our community. Most of us know that horrible weight of guilt when we are less than what we know we should be, when we do something that compromises our values, or make decisions that lead us down the wrong path. We have no one to blame but ourselves. The disciple Peter was guilty and carried a load of shame. At the trial of Jesus, before the crucifixion, three times Peter was confronted by local people who asked Peter if he was not indeed a friend of Jesus. Three times he denied. Love drove him to the trial and fear led to compromise. Now Jesus is risen and he comes to Peter after Peter has fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus helps Peter and gives the gift of presence but how is the air going to get clear to restore healthy relationship? Our past mistakes corrupt our present relationships.
We know this scenario and know the awkwardness of having to repair a broken relationship. Who goes first? How do we confess and repent? Jesus, after having breakfast with the disciples, turns to Peter and breaks the ice with a question in John 21: 15. “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Jesus goes to the core of the issue. Love of self or love of God? Three times Jesus asks the question so there can be no mistake what Jesus is talking about. Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” twice. The third time Peter responds, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus does not give Peter a lecture but instead gives him a task, “Feed my sheep.”
Guilt is so heavy and forgiveness so hard to believe and receive. It is as the other puts trust in us that relationship begins to grow again, renewed and strengthened. The skeletons in our closet seem to pop out and upset things at the oddest moments. One of the greatest gifts that Jesus in the resurrection gives us, is the gift of forgiveness. We know we have eternal forgiveness with God with whom we are promised to spend eternity – sin has been paid for, but we also given the power to forgive others and ourselves.
Perhaps there is a weight you have been carrying around deep inside your soul. Forgiveness is not changing the past but leaving the past in God’s hands to give retribution or to continue directing our future in new ways because of the bad turns we made. Jesus does not want us to carry those past burdens but wants us to be good shepherds, caring to the best ability for others he brings into our lives. Resurrection means we can have renewed life and relationships now.