God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
Last post from the book of John, we discussed how seven of Jesus’ disciples experienced a night of failure before they experienced the real presence of Jesus And we looked at how we might experience that same presence after our own failures. (See previous post The Night of Failure (and the hope we have after)
Today we’ll see Jesus ask Peter a series of questions. Questions about whether or not Peter loves Jesus.
Do You Love Me?
After the seven were all ashore with Jesus, he served them bread and fish.
After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter said, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Then Jesus said to him a second time: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter said, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
Then he said to him a third time: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was grieved because he asked a third time, and he answered, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21: 13-17)
Do You Love Me More Than These?
After breakfast with the seven, Jesus asks Simon Peter, “. . . do you love me more than these?” and that’s what I want to focus on today: “. . . more than these?”
More than these? More than what, exactly? More than the 153 fish? More than Simon Peter’s vocation of fishing for fish? More than Simon Peter’s friends, the six disciples who were with him?
I’ve read a little from the church fathers on this passage, listened to some great pastors’ teachings on this passage, and after thinking about that question quite a bit, I’ve come to this conclusion:
It doesn’t matter.
What matters is, whether or not Simon Peter, or you, or I love Jesus more than any thing, more than anyone, more than everything, more than everyone.
During one of those great teachings I listened to today, the pastor said he came across a study that said when Christian mothers were asked what their top priorities are in life, they answered, their top priorities are their kids and their husbands. I tried to find that study without success, but I believe the pastor who quoted it. I found another study that talked about what people in the United States say is most important to their identity, and the results were similar. (Barna, What Most Influences the Self-Identity of Americans)
The point is, it’s easy to identify as a Jesus follower, but then find myself putting other people, or other interests, ahead of Jesus. It’s easy for Jesus to slip into second place (or third, or fourth, or . . .).
You might find this story by Joseph Hellerman to be a helpful illustration:
“For several years, I served in a church that was known for its commitment to world missions. Many of our college kids were called into full-time cross-cultural ministry, including a bright young man named Bill. The reaction of his parents, however, caught Bill by surprise. His family had supported missionaries financially, prayed for them, and even fed them Sunday lunch when they were on furlough from the field. But the idea of their son giving his life to overseas missions was too much for Bill’s parents. They wanted Bill to find steady employment and raise a nice Christian family—one that supports missions, of course—like they had.” (Hellerman)
How Can I Tell if I Love Jesus More than Anyone or Anything?
So how can we tell? How can we tell if we love Jesus more than anyone else or anything else? You probably already know the answer to that question. All you have to do is look at where you spend your time, energy, and money. Wherever those go the most, points to who or what you love the most. (With the exception of time at work, because, we all have to spend time earning a living.)
I realize it’s a bit more nuanced than that. You can love Jesus so much that you want to love the people around you really well, including your family. So you’re compelled by your love of Christ to love others. Or maybe you’re even compelled by your love of Jesus to perform well at work. You want to do all things as unto the Lord, because of how much you love the Lord. I get that.
But Jesus was very clear on the point. He said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (See Luke 14:25-33) Of course there are other places in the Bible where family is emphasized. Jesus chastises the religious leaders for preventing people from keeping the fourth commandment to honor their parents. (Matthew 15:3-4) And spouses are commanded to be faithful to one another. And Paul wrote that “. . . if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8) So I think it’s clear that we’re to love our family members. I believe what Jesus is saying is, we’re to love him far more than our family members, or even our own lives. At the end of Luke 14:25-33 Jesus even says, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
It’s easy to lose our way when it comes to loving Jesus most, and now more than ever. Following Jesus means loving two families, our family in Christ, and our biological family. And for most of us, our family in Jesus isn’t getting together right now. Also, today we have by far more entertainment and distractions than we’ve ever had in human history: Netflix, and video games, and social media, and Kindle books, and the twenty-four hour a day news cycle. Not to mention the usual distractions: work, kids, and food.
So now more than ever is the time. Now, during this pandemic with all it’s ramifications. Now during a time when, for many of us, our family members are, for the most part, the only ones we see. Now just before the election. Now, while the world is witnessing social injustice. Now, while there’s such great distraction. Now is the time for us to ask ourselves: Where does my time go? My energy? My money?
Now is the time for us to ask ourselves:
Do I love Jesus more than these?
What Most Influences the Self-Identity of Americans, Barna, March 19, 2015
Joseph Hellerman, Our Priorities Are Off When Family Is More Important Than Church, Christianity Today, August 4, 2016