It strikes me that there is a tension within the scriptures, indeed evident within the words and actions of Jesus, a tension not well navigated in the life of the church.
And that is between ‘holiness’, for want of a better word, and mercy. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount preaches what many treat as an impossible ethic, to live out the life of God, to be the light of the world. Yet also he associates with those who manifestly – externally at least – do not reveal that life, notorious sinners. Furthermore amongst his disciples we see little of this Life manifest, and Peter must be restored after denying Christ.
This restoration in particular is most significant, for Peter is restored to his position as the lead disciple, the one called to feed the sheep. Jesus does not say to him, ‘of course you are forgiven, but having failed so appallingly, you can no longer feed my sheep’, which is the almost uniform response of the church to those who fall from Grace, sometimes quite horribly.
Of course the one to be restored needs ‘a penitent, lowly and obedient heart’, but then so do we all, and perhaps here is the true challenge for us all.
Peter would not have been restored in the church in these days, it seems to me.
James, the brother of Jesus, whose voice often sounds to me closest to that of The Lord, tells us that ‘Mercy triumphs over judgment’. It strikes me that this aspect of the Life of God we would do well to ponder in our shared life.