A Week of Compassion Reflection on John 21:15-19
How do we love well? To love well speaks to the quality of our love, not the quantity. I don’t believe Jesus was asking Peter how much he loved him, but simply, how did he love him. How do we, then, as followers of Jesus the Christ, love well?
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” What is Jesus really asking Peter here? Peter, caught a bit off guard, says, “Of course, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus responds by saying, “Ok then, feed my lambs.”
A second time Jesus says to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter responds again, perhaps a bit more frustrated, “Yes, Lord, you know that I do!” This time Jesus says, “Then tend my sheep.” Tend my sheep. We’re not only feeding now, but tending, caring for the whole animal, not little lambs any longer, but full-grown sheep.
Tend my sheep, Jesus said. Take care of one another; accompany your sisters and brothers on the journey to healing. Commit to them for the long haul.
But Jesus asks Peter yet a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” This time Peter gets totally exasperated. “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” to which Jesus says, “Ok then, feed my sheep. For very truly I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and go wherever you wished. But when you grow up, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will fasten a belt around you and lead you to where you do not want to go.” After this he finished his inquisition of Peter by saying, “Follow me.”
Follow me. Yet we find it challenging just to follow the news! Feed my sheep, Jesus said. To love me is to follow me. To follow me is to care deeply, effectively and appropriately for others, and this means standing up for those the world has forgotten and speaking out for those who are in misery and poverty. To love me is to follow me; this also means doing the unpopular and the misunderstood. It can even mean risking our very lives.
Do you love me? What Jesus is actually asking Simon Peter is, “Do you agape me?” Agapan, in New Testament Greek, is a verb meaning sacrificial, redemptive love, often understood as the highest form of love. “Do you love me in this way, Peter?” And he responds, “Yes Lord, you know that I am your friend; I have such affection for you,” using the Greek verb philein. But this kind of love between friends or even family is not necessarily agape love. Jesus asks again, “But do you love me? You’re not hearing me! What is the quality of your love, Peter?” After all that time being a disciple of Jesus, after all that work and commitment, Jesus asks him only then to follow him. Follow me, he says to Peter. If you love me, follow me. Give all that you have right back to God. This is what it means to love me well.
It is often a long, painstaking, arduous journey to learn to follow Christ. It takes courageous compassion. It takes a commitment. It takes sacrificial giving so that others may not suffer but have enough. That’s loving well. On your own journey of discipleship, what is the quality of your love? Do you love Christ the way Christ loves you?, with a love so powerful that it rises out of the rubble? a love so pure that even in the darkness and total chaos, surrounded by post-earthquake debris, it sings songs of praise to God all night long? a love so profound it leads you to the cross?
Do you love him? Do you love him? Do you love him?
Love well. Feed Christ’s sheep. Please give sacrificially to this year’s Week of Compassion Special Offering so that we are able to meet the needs of God’s people each and every day.
Where in the World Has WoC Been This Week?
DEVELOPMENT AND LONG-TERM RECOVERY & REHABILITATION
DR Congo, educational support
DR Congo, rural community support
Egypt, interfaith dialgue & conflict resolution