No sin can pierce us as deeply as the question Jesus asks of Simon Peter: “Do you love me?” Sin dulls feelings; the word of God intensifies them. When Jesus asks if we love him, the feelings brought up by his question are so intense they hurt. Do we love him? Or are we fooling ourselves?

It is impossible to be casual when Jesus asks this question. Peter’s early love for Jesus was temperamental, professed in the whim of a moment and a mood. He loved Jesus on a purely natural level, in the way any person loves another who is good. It took the hurt of Jesus’s question for Peter to realize that true love never merely professes anything: it pierces straight to the core of our personality, directing not only our words but everything we do.

Unless we get hurt right out of deceiving ourselves, the word of God isn’t having its way with us. His word is sharp: “sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow” (Hebrews 4:12). Jesus’s question strikes against all our illusions, reaching past our selfish individuality into the very center of our being—a terribly painful thing. But to be hurt like this by Jesus is the most exquisite hurt imaginable. It stings away every delusion and doubt, every selfish thought and worry.

When the Lord sends the hurt of his word to his child, there is no mistaking it. But the point of the hurt is the great point of revelation: it reveals to us how we truly feel about our Lord. “Lord,” said Peter, “you know that I love you” (John 21:17).

Wisdom from Oswald

God created man to be master of the life in the earth and sea and sky, and the reason he is not is because he took the law into his own hands, and became master of himself, but of nothing else.  The Shadow of an Agony, 1163 L