Pastor's Column -- Do You Love Me?
"I love you, Bearpa!" was the parting comment from my waving four-year-old grandson as we departed the scene of our daughter's birthday celebration a few days ago. (Note: "Bear" has been my wife's endearment-of-choice for me over the last 40+ years. It was only natural that "Bearpa" would be my grandchildren's version of "Grandpa.") His was the final I-love-you of many that filled the family celebration that day.
It's a wonderful thing being told you are loved, isn't it?
I've had days when my need for reassurance has been strong and I'll prompt my wife with the question: "Do you love me?" I know the answer. I have never once doubted her love for me. But, it's a wonderful thing being told you are loved!
Soon after the resurrection, Jesus asked that same question of His "ace" disciple, Peter, who had three-times denied Him. The apostle John recounts the story this way:
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."
Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.
(John 21:15-17, NIV)
Of course, the Lord's questions did not arise from a need for personal assurance. Rather, Jesus used the thrice-repeated question to offer His disciple the healing antidote to his poisonous earlier denials. But the question was a defining one for Peter.
When Jesus asks us the question, "Do you love Me?", it's certainly not a casual matter. In fact, it can be downright haunting, for how we respond makes an eternal difference. Only those who truly love Him will get to spend eternity with Him.
Consider this: When in the company of someone that you do not particularly care for, it does not take long before you are looking for an escape. Conversely, how quickly the time passes when you're with someone you dearly love!
Isn't it amazing that there are folks who are really uncomfortable in the presence of Jesus here and now, and find His question genuinely awkward, yet still assume that an eternity in heaven with Him will be... "heavenly?"
Jesus says to each one of us, "I love you. Do you love Me?"
Do you remember what happened when you first fell in love with that special guy or girl? And then when he or she said, "I love you" -- WOW! If you were like me, you couldn't stop talking about her to anyone who would listen. Her picture went everywhere with me; her name was always on my lips. I loved telling others how beautiful, kind, caring and fun she was. I was in love with her and wanted everyone to know it!
I find it a curious thing that so many of us who claim to be deeply in love with Jesus find it so difficult to tell others about the kindest, most caring Person who ever lived. I wonder why His name is so rarely on our lips (outside of the church building) and why He's not the regular topic of conversation.
I have a challenge for you:
In a conversation this week, say to someone, "I got asked the question recently, 'Do you love Jesus?' and I said, 'Yes, I do!' Now, let me ask you the same question. 'Do you love Jesus?'"
It will likely spark quite a conversation...
It's a wonderful thing being told you are loved; Jesus thinks so, too!