A look can say a lot.
I once attended a workshop with my husband TJ as separate individuals, and another participant, catching the look I gave to TJ from across the room and his response, came to ask me, “Is that your husband?” Looks can be very telling, and powerful.
And perhaps the most powerful look of all is the look of love. It’s the look we all dream about, the look we long to receive, the look that may even change the course of our lives.
The encouraging and affirming gaze of a parent gives us the strength to overcome adversities in life. A look of acceptance and welcome turns acquaintances into our friends. And an inexplicable look of affinity and attraction can turn a stranger into our spouse. Love is the look of intimacy and unconcealable bliss between lovers and couples, the look that says, “I am so happy with you and I only want to be with you.”
The look of love is so powerful, I believe that it can not only change the course of our lives, but change our lives from the inside out. But when does it do that?
It is at the point of failure when the look of love changes lives.
Because it’s always easy to love when everything’s going great, when the right atmosphere is present, when the right things are being done and the right words are being said, and that loving feeling is strong.
But so often when things go wrong and our loved ones stumble in words and deeds, that loving feeling is whisked away in a flash and the look that instinctively comes on our face to our loved ones is a look of hurt, anger and condemnation. And we know that will only bring about a progressive downward spiral.
But how can anyone respond with a look of love when our loved one has failed us? Is it humanly possible?
Well, not really, and I don’t think in and of ourselves any one of us can do it. We may be able to grit our teeth and force that loving smile out the first few times, but not continuously and consistently all the time.
But I found out that there’s one who can, through the life of Peter.
Peter was one of the 12 disciples and apostles, one of the closest to Jesus. He boasted of his love for the Lord Jesus, and was often the first to speak up or answer to the Lord.
In fact, at the Last Supper, when Jesus predicted that all the disciples would fail and desert Him as prophesied, Peter fervently promised, “Lord, even if all fall away on account of you, I never will”. To which Jesus predicted that Peter would deny knowing Him 3 times that very night, and Peter once again swore that he would never deny Jesus even if he had to die with Him (Matthew 26:31-35, Luke 22:31-34).
Actually, Peter is a picture of all Christians who are fervent but choose to boast in their love for the Lord, and also a picture of every one of us who boast in our own strength, saying “I would never do something like that” – whatever atrocious thing it may be.
And we see that this pride and self-confidence gave the devil opportunity to tempt and trip Peter up, who fled and denied Jesus 3 times just as He had predicted.
But at the very moment of Peter’s failure, right at the point of his third denial, the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:61).
It was a look that broke Peter’s heart, for after that he went out and wept bitterly.
What look was this? I believe it was the look of love. A look that said, “(Peter,) I still love you and I am still with you.”
Why do I say so? Because when Jesus told the disciples of the Holy Spirit that would come after He ascended back to the Father, He said that the Holy Spirit would convict them (the believers) “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more” (John 16:10).
This can only mean that while Jesus was with them, every time they looked at Him, even after they had failed or stumbled, they saw only acceptance, love, and the assurance that they were still all right with Him.
Also, after Jesus had risen and appeared to the disciples on the shores of the Lake of Galilee when they were out fishing, the moment Peter learned that it was the Lord, he promptly jumped into the water to swim to land to get to Jesus (John 21:4-7). A person still steeped in guilt and embarrassment will never run towards the person he has offended.
And Peter had changed. He no longer boasted of a willing-to-die-for-Jesus type of love. But as Jesus restored him publicly before the other disciples in the same setting that he had betrayed Jesus, by a fire of coals, and asked Peter “do you agape (as in the original Greek, a self-sacrificing love) Me?”, Peter responded, “Lord, You know I phileo (as in the original Greek, a brotherly love) You”.
Peter realised that his love would never be as much as the Lord Jesus’s love for him, and that was OK. It was in this revelation and newfound humility that Jesus entrusted the ministry of the church to Peter.
And that revelation and restoration of love that changed Peter’s life.
It purged his conscience totally that he was able to preach unabashedly without shame of his own failure the good news of Jesus Christ, that caused 3,000 people to turn to Christ and form the early church.
It turned him into a great leader of the early church, so anointed by the power of God that even his shadow would heal the sick. And church history records that Peter died a martyr, full of the Lord’s love and love for the Lord. It all started with that one look of love.
That is the look of love that I see today whenever I turn my eyes to Jesus.
And the most beautiful thing is, I learnt that He never looks at me any other way.
When I do something good, I see the smile and encouragement in His eyes. When I fail, I see that same loving smile and look of love and affirmation in His eyes, and I find strength to stand again and move on. And out of that love I find strength and ease to love others the same way, even when they fail.
That look of love can change your life, too. Turn to Him and see for yourself.
Because when you encounter Jesus, you encounter grace.