I think there is a very unhealthy spirit when Christians feel called to an absurd “radical” faith. I do think that being a Christian is a radical thing; as Bonhoeffer says, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die.” However, there is a certain naiveté in Christian circles that produces an endless exhausting faith. We read passages, like the ones where Jesus tells someone to sell all he has or he can’t enter the kingdom of God and instead of reading that as the addiction of the one man Jesus was talking to, we do that very thing. I think this is a necessary part of faith. I think so many of us are resistant to receiving love that we actually try to earn it. I see this so clearly in Peter. A man who says he will never deny Jesus and does it three times in one night. This is a very youthful faith that is exciting to be around. The person is so alive. They begin to see things in a way that they never have before. It’s like the couple that commits to marriage one month into their dating relationship. It’s fresh, it’s fun, it’s good, there is no dark side.
People like this have a mindset of, “If the Bible says it, I’m going to do it”, or, “Well, this is what a good Christian does, so I have to do it.” Their faith is not processed. They live in a continual state of doing and have not yet learned how to be. They have not yet found the life that is in them. As Father James Martin has said, “Your deepest, most heartfelt desires are God’s desires for you. And vice versa. Listen. And follow them.” Bernard of Clairvaux would call this mentality of serving others for God’s sake his third level of love, loving God’ for God’s sake. Unfortunately, as we eventually see, our sin, our failures, our mistakes, will never end, and living this mentality, albeit good and necessary, leaves us exhausted and potentially filled with shame. We who do this, are like little Peters who militantly confess Christ, but deny him much more than three times. Luckily, before he goes back to be with the father, Jesus leaves Peter with these compassionate words,
After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”
If you love God, receive God’s compassion for your dark side. Don’t be so hard on yourself, show yourself compassion and continue to feed God’s sheep. There is work left to do and there is grace to heal our failures along the way.