Imagine a love with no strings attached.
No expectations. No disappointments. No conditions. What would that look like?
We get a glimpse of this kind of love during the most painful and unjust nights in history: the night Jesus was betrayed.
It was a long-standing friendship–they went way back. Jesus had called him, hand picked him to be by his side. He was privy to special, once-in-a-life time events. They had spent almost every waking hour together. Day and night for 3 years. That’s 1000 days of shared life. He was to be integral to his future plans. They were tight! And then he betrayed him in the most cruel way imaginable:
70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” Matthew 26:70
When Jesus is facing imminent death, Peter denies ever having known Him.
“That guy over there? Nope! Never heard of Him!” Not once. Not twice. Three times.
If anyone had reason to hold a grudge, it was Jesus. He would have every right to be livid, disappointed, angry, and vengeful.
But Jesus? His is a love with no strings attached.
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”33 Peter[b] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus[c] said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Jesus knows that Peter will desert him, that Peter will attach strings, expectations, conditions to his love for Jesus. And when Jesus is faced with the unthinkable betrayal, he does the unthinkable: He prays for Peter, even when He was being betrayed.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity (which would certainly be my response if my best friend hurt me), Jesus sees Peter’s need and meets it: He prays that Peter would make it through the experience with his faith intact. He expects his betrayal, anticipates the disappointment, and still loves without expectations–a love with no strings attached.
“You will deny three times that you know me.” Jesus tells Peter what’s going to happen so he won’t think the situation is out of God’s control. Notice how matter-of-factly Jesus states the situation to Peter in verse 34. He doesn’t express disappointment or anger. He’s simply giving Peter a heads’ up that this is going to happen, so that when it does, Peter may respond rightly.
Disappointment is impossible for Jesus because He will never be surprised by our choices. Grieved? Yes. Disappointed? No.
Jesus wasn’t surprised, so He handled it without the negative emotional baggage. When Jesus looked at Peter in the priest’s court, I doubt it was a look of resentment, bitterness, or disappointment; it was a look full of piercing, knowing, reckless love.
He knew Peter’s choice would crush him; he would weep bitterly; he would feel overcome by despair. So Jesus gave him the facts to help Peter overcome that hurdle when it happened.
Jesus Loves By Offering Hope
“When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
- Jesus reassures Peter that the betrayal is not the end. He says WHEN–not IF–Peter repents, he has a mission to do: strengthen the brethren. In the days following Jesus’ death, Peter must have revisited this conversation again and again. In giving Peter a mission, Jesus communicates that he has an important part of the plan! That thought must have given Peter tremendous hope.
Notice what Jesus DOESN’T say. He doesn’t tell Peter “You’ll want to betray me, but be careful to stay true to Me and My mission. If you do, you’ll be part of my church. If you don’t, you’re damned.”
No. Jesus didn’t show concern about the possible bad results of loving Peter. He didn’t wonder what would happen to the Kingdom. He didn’t wallow in self-pity.
He loved Peter unconditionally, no matter what the outcome. That kind of love is reckless.
That’s the way Jesus loves me and you, and that’s the way He expects me and you to love others: No expectations. No disappointment. No conditions.
It’s breath-taking when you really think about it.
Let’s Apply This:
When you think about God’s love, what do you envision? Do you feel you need to work for it, earn it, keep it? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you grasp the enormity of Jesus’ love with no strings attached. Think of one person you can love in this way, and ask God and help you love them in this way today.
Read more: What if God asks me to do something scary?