I’ve been doing a lot of contemplation lately. Pondering where it is that God wants me to be and what true service to Him looks like. As I’ve been spending these past few weeks seeking direction one passage of scripture has continued to come back to me time and time again. John 21-15-17 where Jesus talks to Peter and restores him to not only fellowship and friendship, but gives him a direct command and commission to continue the work of the Lord here on earth.
15 When Jesus and the disciples had finished eating, Jesus spoke to Simon Peter. He asked, “Simon, son of John, do you really love me more than these others do?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. “You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you really love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 Jesus spoke to him a third time. He asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt bad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He answered, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. John 21:15-17 (New International Revised Version)
For each and every time that Peter had denied Christ on the night of his arrest and trial before crucifixion, Jesus restores Peter to himself. However there is a deeper meaning and command from this passage than the promise of restoration to fellowship with Christ.
The undeniable command to actively feed and minister to others.
Three times Peter is commanded to “feed my lambs”, “take care of my sheep”, and to “feed my sheep”. The meaning is crystal clear to me and has been hammering home in my spirit and mind recently. We as Christians are under a direct order to do more than just evangelize. We are called to be the hands on servants of Christ.
I believe the command to feed and tend to the lambs and feed the sheep is more than just a directive for spiritual action, it is literally a call to meet needs, bind wounds, fill stomachs and be not just a spiritual presence in our communities but to be a physical one as well. It is time for the church to stop just praying for the homeless and the hungry and instead to literally build roofs and fill supper plates. The church can no longer merely bow heads over the drug and gang problems and instead must get out of our pews and down into the neighborhoods and housing projects with those most at risk live.
The command to “take care of my sheep” means more than just holding a prayer service or having a VBS or 5-Day club where we try to win as many souls to Christ as we can before we drive back to the suburbs and leave for our own vacation. It means cleaning parks and playgrounds, repairing roofs and fixing plumbing, mentoring young people and single parents, making sure that food is in the pantry and the love of Jesus is so overflowing from us Christians it cannot help but rise others up. Instead of passing judgement we must start affirming self-worth in those we seek to minister too. For decades we’ve had it all wrong in assuming that they will come to Christ when all along we have been the ones missing the command to take the love of Jesus directly to them.
It means doing more than just thinking about their spiritual health and being just as concerned about their physical and emotional health as well.
It means that instead of driving through the rough parts of town to get to our own church we park the car and get out and plant a new church in the middle of those tough neighborhoods and light a candle for Christ to shine into the darkness like the true beacon of hope that it is.
It means taking some risks and having audacious faith that God will not only direct but will also provide and protect. It means finally becoming alive in Christ and carrying on the direct command given to Peter.
It means feeding the sheep and it means we start today.