He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” — John 21:17
I think the true test of our discipleship is what happens when we Christians are in a position of power. Do we take care of Jesus’ sheep, or do we herd only the ones who agree with/look like us, and drive the others to the wolves?
In Brian McLaren’s excellent book, Do I Stay Christian?, he paints the depressing picture of church history. Condemning heretics, launching Crusades, torturing and killing during the Inquisition: makes you wonder what ever happened to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And it still goes on today. In the name of Jesus judgments are made according to who are good or bad, moral or immoral, worthy of grace or of punishment. I’m saddened when politicians want to cater to the “Christian” segment knowing that segment is quick to judge people regarding sexuality, reproductive rights, gender identification, racial/economic justice…basically, anything that doesn’t support their view of family values.
All Jesus asks is to be focused on the sheep. We don’t judge them or create biased hoops through which they must jump. Simply put unconditional love and grace into action. Jesus set the standard at the beginning of his ministry with love of enemies, in the Sermon on the Mount. He ended his ministry with a parable about ministering to the weak, needy, and marginalized, without exception. Any preacher knows that if you want to emphasize the most important theme to your message, make sure you have a good intro and conclusion. Jesus did.
We have to hear that message repeatedly so he can finally break through our defenses. That’s why Jesus asked Peter three times if he was ready to love others as Jesus loved him. How many times does Jesus have to ask you and me?