A QUESTION: Simple and pure
“Simon, son of John [Peter], do you love me?”
This question in John 21 is straightforward. Simple. Pure. But honestly, this question haunts me.
Jesus asks Peter this question three times. Without doubt taking Peter back to the last time he was around a charcoal fire, slowly but surely denying association with Jesus.
Three chances to answer the question. Coinciding with, and redeeming, his three betrayals from before.
I’m amazed at how Jesus does not use guilt. He doesn’t rehash those moments, dragging Peter through the mud. He doesn’t drive home how hurtful the denials were. He doesn’t assume future behavior based on past mistakes.
I often assume that God wants me to feel the guilt and weight of my shame before I understand forgiveness. To reap the consequences of my actions. In other words, the pain of regret should at least equal, and precede, the joy of reconciliation.
Or I believe I must create a new track record of obedience, convincing enough to make my sin fade from remembrance.
Yet Jesus simply asks him a question in this moment. Right now, moving forward, do you love me?
Regardless of our past, or even our yesterday, we wake up each morning with a chance to answer that question: Do you love me?
The question is pure. With no strings attached or hidden motives. Can we receive it that way?
A RESPONSE: Simple and pure
The threefold nature of Jesus’ question has another layer, at least for me.
I often need to hear simple questions, like “do you love me,” three or more times to get past my snap responses, contrived of engrained church answers. With zero reflection, I can emphatically respond with “Of course!” while having no clue what that really means.
Similar to singing “Jesus loves me” without letting that truth change us, we can often say we love Jesus without exploring whether our life reflects that.
Can we get beyond our knowing about Jesus love enough to truly reflect and know our answer?
Do I actually love Jesus? What does that even look like?
I am slowly learning what love looks like in my own marriage, and with my family. But what does it look like with God?
I can become overwhelmed and anxious, wondering if I am reaching the level of love that is required or expected. Is there a feeling I should have whenever I’m awake? Should others stop in their tracks because my love for God is radiating in angelic proportions? Should I work my devotion to God into every conversation?
I always think big. And feel smothered under my own projected expectations.
But let’s return to Jesus’ conversation with Peter. He gives three tangible examples:
“Feed my lambs.”
“Tend my sheep.”
“Feed my sheep.”
What does loving God look like? Loving others. It’s simple. Not easy by any means. But simple.
Not that good deeds, regardless of motivation, is what God is asking. But in response to receiving God’s love, we give that love to others. We love God by loving those made in His image.
And that act of loving others helps us understand God’s love for us even more.
The vertical and horizontal are intricately related. It is an amazing symbiotic reality.
A simple question. Renewed each day.
A simple response. Possible each day.