Relationships are key to our survival. As a communal creature, we need relationships of all types. Our most important relationship is our spiritual relationship with Christ. Yet, like children, we find ourselves many times on the taking end of our relationship with Christ. Our love while present, many times fails to meet the standards of a healthy relationship. We possess a “me, me, me first” type attitude, putting Christ second.
Love is patient. This is a key ingredient we hear many times about love. It does not seek to force itself upon the beloved, but patiently waits. It also continues to give while waiting. This is the love Christ has in his relationship with us. It is the type of love he showers upon us every passing minute of our lives.
What type of relationship do we have with Christ? In all reality, we probably have an imperfect one because our human nature is broken. Yet again, Christ’s love is patient. I think many of us have a Petrine relationship with Christ. In a past blog, the idea of a Petrine relationship was explored.
The idea of a Petrine relationship was described as in the following: “We have a fire for Christ. We love him and say we will do anything–and probably mean it at the time of saying it! But it is so difficult to carry through. Our broken human nature, our fears and the temptations of the world sometimes push us away and we lose focus–much like Peter did when he stood before our Lord on the water. However, unlike others who despaired, like Judas, Peter never gave up. Even after denial, he wept bitterly and became a better man and Christian. How many times do we see this same pattern in our own life? While many of us would like to see ourselves like John, steadfast and devout, most of us are more like Peter. We have a strong love for the Lord but sometimes fail.”
This adequately sums up many Christians lives, especially during our younger years as our broken human nature strives for Christian excellence, but always seems to fall short in fulfilling our end of the relationship with Christ. We will talk with great confidence like Peter, declaring our steadfast fidelity, but as Peter did, seem to fail when tested. Did not Peter declare he would never fail Christ, but in the end, ultimately deny him three times? Did not Peter strike the temple guard with the sword, only to minutes later flee the garden?
Peter is the ultimate example of our broken human nature. Wishing to please our Lord but falling many times. Peter is first and only to jump into the sea to welcome Christ, but after doing so, quickly loses focus and begins to sink without the Lord. We can see why Christ loved him so much. He is clearly in his younger years a child that expresses so much love but like a child does not understand what a true relationship entails.
After our Lord’s resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. In the old Greek, Jesus is asking for “agape”, an all giving love, but Peter each time offers “philia” or deep friendship. Jesus finally after three times accepts what Peter can give at that moment. This is what I meant when I said Christ’s love is patient. He takes what we can give at a certain moment, knowing that as the sword is tested by the fire and one day our love will become stronger.
We need to strengthen our love. Our relationship with Christ cannot continue to be an infantile Petrine relationship, but must mature into an adult Petrine relationship. Peter grew. So must us. He transformed from a simple fisherman with a childlike love for Christ into a fearless apostle. An apostle who did not only express love for Christ with his words, but expressed his love in a giving relationship with his actions. Actions that would eventually lead to his own crucifixion.
Like Peter, we need to take the next step where we give Christ a more meaningful relationship that does not express itself only in words but also actions. Whether by overcoming a sinful habit, or spiritually growing closer in union through sacrifice or denial, we must eventually transform our faith from a simple fisherman to that of an apostle.
In the meantime, love is patient. Christ takes what we can give, but he wants so much more! And he deserves it!
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Mark Moran, MA