Why God Can Use a Screw-Up Like You (and Me)

There are a lot of people in the world who feel like they’re not good enough. I’m one of them. I spend a lot of time thinking about all the ways I’m not good enough and all the things I’m not good at: I’m not nearly good enough at being a husband and a dad and I’m definitely not good enough at almost everything related to being a youth minister. I’m sure most people can make a list of all the ways they think they’re not good enough.

Then, in my brain at least, I figure if I’m not good enough at anything, then I’m definitely not good enough for God. How could God possibly use a screw-up like me?

But then I read stories like this one in John 21. Peter and some of the disciples are out fishing when they unexpectedly see Jesus on the shore. The story says Peter put on his clothes because he was naked (everybody fishes naked, right? There’s not anything weird about that part of the story, right?) Then, after putting on his clothes, he jumps out of the boat to swim toward Jesus.

I can’t read this story in John 21 without thinking about this scene from the movie Forrest Gump:

After Peter gets to the shore, Jesus pulls him aside for a one on one conversation. (I expect that he’s going to say something like, “Peter, dude, please wear some clothes when you’re fishing!” But he doesn’t.)

The conversation in John 21:15-17 actually goes like this:

When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

Just a few chapters earlier in this story (18:15-27), Peter denied that he even knew Jesus in order to save his own skin. Making that fact even worse is that just a few chapters before that (13:37), Peter says to Jesus, “I’ll give up my life for you!”

Yet here we are, and what does Jesus ask Peter to do? To take care of his sheep. (By the way, in case you’re wondering when Jesus acquired livestock, he didn’t have any actual sheep, even though there’s a picture of Jesus hanging up in every church I’ve ever been in of Jesus wearing a freshly pressed white robe and holding a sheep on his lap. Jesus’s “sheep” are his followers.)

Peter. The screw-up. The one who says, “I’ll give my life for you” in one breath and in another denies that he even knows Jesus. Jesus asks HIM to take care of his sheep.

Why can God use a screw-up like me? Because that’s what God does. God uses screw-ups. Jesus asks screw-ups to take care of his sheep. Throughout the Bible, God asks people who aren’t “good enough” to do some incredible and significant things. Jesus has to ask screw-ups to follow him because the world is completely full of screw-ups like you and like me. So, if Jesus asks people like Peter, the screw-up, to do something important and significant, he could ask people like you and me to do the same.

Something beautiful about this story, something significant communicated throughout the gospel of John, is that God’s power of resurrection is much, MUCH bigger than our power to screw things up. There is nothing you or I can do to take back the resurrection of Jesus. No matter how badly we screw things up, Jesus has already been raised from the dead, and there’s nothing we can do to undo that.

God, thank you that you are big enough and powerful enough to use screw-ups like me to do your work in the world.

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