“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?”
Peter said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Jesus said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?”
Peter said to him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him a third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?”
Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And Peter said to him, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
You may be familiar with this story. It’s the conversation where Jesus restores Peter after Peter denied him three times. We can make much of the different words for ‘love’ Jesus uses in the original language. We could recognize the persistence with which Jesus relentlessly pursues Peter in an attempt to break Peter’s false assumptions about himself and others. We could delight in the fact that Jesus believed in Peter (as He believes in us) even when Peter didn’t believe in himself.
But what I notice today is something else. It’s an observation a former pastor of mine used to make.
As Jesus interrogates Peter he never once asks, “Peter, do you like sheep?”
Peter was a fisherman. He had no experience or expertise caring for sheep. In times of disappointment and failure, Peter didn’t run to the open field where sheep freely roam. He ran to open water. Like the namesake of his father, Jonah, Peter ran from what should be, to the comfort of what he knew best.
Jesus’ words to Peter were more than a personal restoration. They were a direct confrontation, a loving challenge, really. “If you love Me, you will care for, more specifically, you will provide care for My people.”
That is both the challenge and encouragement of your every interaction with people today.
Just like Peter, Jesus believes in you. He believes in you enough to pursue you with relentless affection. He believes that, with zero experience, and possibly little inherent interest, you are the perfect person to provide care for everyone he brings across your path today.
If you love Him, care for his people. Whether you’re experienced at it or not. Whether you’re good at it or not. Whether you like it (or them) or not. Why? Because one of our greatest expressions of love for God is fulfilled as we lovingly care for His people.
It might be tempting to think this kind of thing comes easy. I can assure you, this kind of care takes deliberate attention, willful interaction, and the giving of the kind of grace you’ve already received from God and others. Just like Jesus’ friendship with Peter, our interactions with one another come with both encouragement and challenge. Today, it’s likely that you will spend the majority of your day in increasing circles of influence – from friends and family, colleagues, coworkers, neighbors, to people in your community.
Do you love Him? Feed those sheep.