John 21:15 – When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." (NIV)
What if we were deeply in love with someone, and that person, out of the blue, asked, "Do you truly love me more than anyone else?" I think that would hurt a lot. Didn't the loved person know me and how I felt? Peter was back to work, fishing, trying to forget what had happened when he denied knowing Jesus, trying to put it behind him. But Jesus remembered, and that was the trouble.
What would you or I say if faced with this question? It implies our disloyalty or half-hearted response to Jesus. We say we love Jesus, but do we really? I have found, over the years of my life, that human love is nearly always restricted in some way. We hedge our bets, trying our best to love, but knowing we fail all too often. Human love grows and then dims. Then, to make it worse, the question keeps coming, "Do you really love me?" Jesus is offering Peter an olive branch leading to reinstatement. After all, Jesus knew that Peter, deep down, did love Him. He just needed to grow in this special, unselfish love that is God's love. So, Peter was given a chance to grow, and that is what we all need.
Every time I blow it and my love for Jesus grows cold, something happens to give me a chance to serve Him differently, in a way that makes me grow. There are lambs to be fed and sheep to be looked after. Every needy child or hurting person touched in love is an opportunity for me to grow in love. I found that out when serving Him at Flora House in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, years ago. There were many, many needy children who were reached by the program, and I learned to love them. I grew through those years in my life; they were years that stretched a middle-class minister's daughter into a woman who served my Lord by reaching the child hanging out on the street.
Can we love as Jesus loves us? His love is unconditional, totally and freely given. No way do I deserve it, but I sure depend on it, for God's unselfish love has formed me into who and what I am today. I serve Him with my whole heart, and He takes that love and blesses someone with it.
Prayer: Lord, You ask us if we truly love You. You know that we try, but every day, we depend on Your love to change us and help us grow, until we can love another unconditionally. We ask You now to fill us with Your love, that in our loving response, we may love as You love. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
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