“After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.” John 21:15
Have you ever had someone ask you this same question? Do you love me? The answer is revealing to be sure. There is something even more revealing than the words one uses to answer the question however. Even more important than saying the words are the actions preceding and following the question. Remember, when Jesus asked this question to Peter he already knew the answer. Jesus knew that Peter loved him. Jesus had walked with Peter, taught Peter, eaten with Peter, and called Peter the rock upon which he would build his church. Jesus knew that Peter loved him. I believe Jesus was asking Peter if he loved him in order to help Peter understand the type of love Jesus required. A love of action and not just words.
Peter followed Jesus and professed his belief in Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah. Peter fulfilled Jesus’ commands and did whatever Jesus asked of him. Jesus needed for Peter to now be the leader of the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus would be going to sit at the right hand of God, the Father, and he would need Peter to love him beyond following him. Every time Peter answered the question in the affirmative, Jesus asked him to do something. Jesus wanted Peter’s love to be demonstrated by feeding his lambs and tending his sheep. Jesus desires that his followers show their love for him by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the poor and widowed, visiting those in prison, and loving their neighbor everywhere. This is what love for Jesus looks like.
As we wrap up our series "How to Change the World," we will look at how to stay in love with God. John Wesley instructed the people called Methodists to engage in works of piety and works of mercy. Acts of piety draw us to a greater love of God through the practice of spiritual disciplines. They strengthen our love of Jesus by spending time with Jesus through prayer, Scripture reading, fasting, and worship. We also strengthen our love of Jesus by growing our love of neighbor through works of mercy. Whenever we help someone defeat poverty, injustice, or inequity in their life we are offering them mercy and love. The more we love our neighbor through works of mercy the more we demonstrate our love of Christ.
In my own life I have rarely, if ever, asked someone if they love me. I can either see their love for me or I cannot. Jesus knew Peter loved him. Jesus also wanted Peter to show that love by leading his church forward in spreading God’s love. After Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter demonstrated his love for Jesus the rest of his life. I look forward to continuing the discussion of how we are called to stay in love with God as the third simple rule for changing the world. Be sure to join us this Sunday.