When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”John 21:15
There is a definite order to life and ministry. And if we get it backward the whole thing goes awry. Thus, the first question each of us, like Simon Peter, must answer is “Do you love me? Do you really love me? More than anyone or anything else?
You are my beloved, am I yours?”
After all, it is the first and greatest commandment. If we don’t love Jesus first, we have no real hope of being able to love others. The second love can only be a reflection of the first.
It is only after we honestly answer “Yes, you know I love you, Lord,” to the first part that we can then proceed to the second: “Feed my lambs.”
For if we do not love Jesus first, we will not feed his lambs, we will feed on his lambs.
We will devour them in a feeding frenzy of need and insecurity. Our unmet desire for love and acceptance will get in the way and keep us from being able to love and serve anyone but ourselves.
The first movement of life and ministry must always be towards Jesus. As Evelyn Underhill so beautifully reminds us:
“What you are like (in ministry), is going to depend on your secret life of prayer; on the steady orientation of your souls to the Reality of God. Called upon to practice in their fullness the two great commandments, you can only hope to get the second one right if you are completely controlled by the first. And that will depend on the quality of your secret inner life. We must spend time and strength in deepening and increasing our own love of God: for it is only through adoration and attention that we make our personal discoveries about Him. How are you going to show these souls, who need it so dreadfully, the joy and delightfulness of God and surrender to God, unless you have it yourselves?”
Spend a few minutes with Jesus in prayer.
- Tell him the answer to his question, “Do you love me more than these?”
- Tell him why you love him.
- Tell him what you love about him.
- Then, listen as he tells you what your “these” are. What are the things that most often compete with him for your attention and affection?
- Now, listen to him as he tells you to feed his lambs: What does that look like? Who, specifically, is he asking you to feed and how does he want you to go about it? Who will you invite to join you in doing that?
Many of you have already read Jim Branch’s well-loved devotional, The Blue Book. The excerpt above is from his newest book, “Into the Heart of God: A Journey with Jesus through the Gospel of John.”