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What does this saying mean?

“Lock the door and throw away the key.”

It is a metaphor. We are not talking about incarcerating violent criminals or anything like that.

This is about a person having offended someone, made a mistake, or failed at a task.

“Locking the door” can mean either locking that person into their failure or locking that person out of your life—or both.

“Throwing away the key” means there is no hope of that door ever being unlocked.

Love is not like that! Love hopes all things.

So, what does it mean?

Opening thoughts

As explained in the previous post, this hope is not a form of naïveté or gullibility. It is not hoping anything and everything—no matter how ridiculous or outrageous.

This is hope in the context of all 16 qualities of agapē-love presented in 1 Corinthians 13. Furthermore, because God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), it is hope in the context of who God is as revealed in Jesus Christ. This hope has the quality of divine reality about it. This hope is an anticipation of what God has promised and will deliver.

There are two other essential elements to this kind of hope.

First, hope is about the future. Paul affirms that “If we already have something, we don't need to hope for it” (Romans 8:24 NLT).

Second, hope is positive. Hope is something we desire—and more importantly, what God desires for us.


It might be helpful to ask, “What is the opposite hope?”

Some obvious answers are hopeless or hopelessness. To this, we can add despair and some of its by-products, such as fear, discouragement, dread, remorse, pessimism, and doubt.

So, what is the meaning of “agapē-love hopes all things,” and what does that look like?

A failure

Let’s illustrate this quality of love with an incident in the life of Peter.

In John 13, the disciples are eating a meal with Jesus. They do not realize it is the “last supper.” As they listen intently, there are things that they do not understand.

At one point, Peter, in a self-confident, somewhat bombastic, statement responds to Jesus with,

“Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (John 13:37)

Is Peter setting himself apart from the other disciples, claiming a greater love and devotion for Jesus?

Jesus answers,

“Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (13:38)

Sure enough, within a few short hours, Jesus is arrested by the Jewish authorities. Peter follows and is warming himself from the chill of the night outside the place where Jesus is on trial.

Those with Peter ask whether he is a disciple of Jesus. In quick succession, Peter strongly denies three times that he even knows Jesus—after which “a rooster crowed” (John 18:17-18, 25, 26-27).  

Both Matthew and Luke report that Peter realized what he had done, and “he went out and wept bitterly.”

A remorse

We all know the feeling of failure. Sometimes it can be overcome; sometimes, not. For Peter, this appears to be a time when there is no possible recovery. Jesus is crucified, and His lifeless body is placed in a tomb.

The full realization of failure struck Peter, and with it, the onset of hopelessness and despair.

I will leave it for you to read John 20:1-21:14 with a particular focus on Peter. What was he experiencing:

  • as he ran to the tomb and found the body of Jesus missing (20:1-10);
  • as Jesus appeared to ten disciples (including Peter) (20:19-23);
  • as he declared, “I am going fishing”—as if that is all he was now able to do—and then he caught nothing (21:1-3);
  • as he heard a stranger calling out, “Children, have you caught any fish?” (21:5);
  • as he swam fully-clothed 100 yards to shore toward the stranger—who might (after all) be Jesus (21:6-8);
  • as he dragged the heavy net full of large fish up on the shore (21:9-11)?

I suspect he was experiencing a strange and burdensome combination of failure, despair, desire, regret, remorse, yearning, repentance, and hopelessness.

Did he feel locked into his failure? Did he believe he was locked out of any meaningful relationship with Jesus?

If so, that was all about to change.

An invitation

Pause for a moment and read the conversation in John 21:15-17.

There is the intriguing thought that as Jesus is asking about Peter’s love for Jesus, Jesus is actually expressing his love for Peter. I will expand on the richness of this section in another post.

I draw your attention to the use of two different words for love in this dialog—something the English translations do not bring out. For the distinction between agap* and phil* see “What is love?

For now, it is enough to hear what Jesus says to Peter (perhaps echoing Peter’s three denials) and Peter’s responses:                                                                                                                   

“Simon, son of John, do you love [agap*] me …?” (21:15)

“Yes, Lord; You know that I love [phil*] You.” 

Note that Simon Peter does not use the word for “love” that Jesus uses. Peter is no longer the self-confident, bombastic man he was at the Last Supper.


“Simon, son of John, do you love [agap*] Me?”  (21:16)

“Yes, Lord; You know that I love [phil*] You.” 


“Simon, son of John, do you love [phil*] Me?” (21:17)

“Lord, You know all things; You know that I love [phil*] You.”

The third time, Jesus adopts the word Peter is using (phil*). It is as if Jesus is saying, “All right, Peter, I accept that. And I want you to know that the door has never been locked, it is open, and I am inviting you to take hold of the hope I have for you.” 

A very subdued Peter hears the invitation of Jesus after each exchange:

“Tend My lambs.” (21:15)

“Shepherd My sheep.” (21:16)

“Tend My sheep.” (21:17)

Each of these invitations is an imperative. An imperative is an action that is intended. This is what Jesus intends for Peter. Jesus “hopes all things” about Peter’s future as a follower, a disciple, an apostle.

And, as they say, “The rest is history!”

Summing up

“Lock the door and throw away the key” is an old saying meaning to lock someone away in their failure for all time—to write them off.

Love, agapē, is not like that—love hopes all things.

Love presents an unlocked door and an invitation to a bright future full of purpose and joy—something Peter thought was lost to him forever.

What do you have to say about this? Click here and write to me.

FORWARD TO “Love never fails.”

BACK TO “Love believes all things.”

Photo credit: Håkan Dahlström on / CC BY

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