March 3, 2016

If I love Jesus . . .

Love on a human level changes lives. When two people love each other, their focus and priorities change. So does their behavior and the way they talk. They think about each other. Life is never the same.

That being true, what can be said about love on a divine level? When Peter was asked if he loved Jesus, his life changed forever too . . .

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:17)

The difference in this love is that God’s love didn’t suddenly or even gradually happen. He is love. It is His nature to love. He created humanity because of love. That means God does not ‘fall in love’ like people do. His love is not like ours. It is not based on attraction or fondness. It is not about anything we are or do. He is love: the source and love at its ultimate depth and purity. There is nothing we can do to stop it or change it.

When Jesus Christ came as the expression of God’s love, sinful humanity rejected Him. However, because of God’s grace, “. . . to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) And in receiving Him, it becomes possible to love like He loves. To say it another way, sinners are made new creatures so that His love can be shed abroad in our hearts. This is what Jesus asked Peter to do. In essence, He said, “If you love me, then love my sheep.”

Yet this was not just for Peter. Later, Jesus told the rest of His disciples: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21) As some would say, God sent Jesus to reveal His love – so Jesus sends us to do the same thing!

This is the point of realizing that I do love Jesus; that I know how to express my love for Him. This love is not about mountain top declarations or sentimental cards and letters. It is not about writing a blog or giving a testimony. It is about feeding sheep.

I once owned some sheep. They are timid and skittish animals. They also smell bad and some of them are driven by their insecurities to be bullies who attack when your back is turned. I’m not saying the sheep of Jesus are exactly like that, but some of us do have hang-ups. We often run off at the slightest provocation and can be skittish and insecure.

Yet the love of God is not about the sheep. It is about the One who loves. As Chambers says, “It is impossible to weary God’s love, and it is impossible to weary that love in me if it springs from the one center.”

God’s love isn’t about the qualities of its object, nor is it about my natural affinities. Some sheep are easy to get along with and those could be the sheep I might want to feed, but the love of God does not allow me to be guided by my natural temperament or preferences. I do not get to choose who or what or even when. Jesus says, “Feed my sheep” without any qualifiers.

There are no days off, double-time for over-time, bonuses or retirement plans. There also is no faking it. If I counterfeit the love of God by feeding sheep based on my human sympathy and preferences, then I am mocking and even blaspheming the love of God which is not at all like that!

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