A son tells the story of one day. “One day, my dad calls me over, takes out his wallet, and hands me money. He tells me, “Here’s $20. Take your brother to lunch for his birthday. Keep him outta the house until 3:00 while we get his surprise birthday party ready.” And that’s the year I realized my twin was the favorite brother.
It’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves. Maybe life has been really tough. Perhaps we’ve had more on our plate than others have had. There’s no doubt that the work load isn’t always split up evenly. Sometimes we’re asked to do a lot, to carry more than others carry, to have more responsibility than others have. It’s always easier to carry our work when our heart is really in it. It’s better to love the load, than to feel sorry that you’re carrying it.
You’ve got stuff because God needs stuff done. Being good and doing good has weight to it. If you don’t know why you’re doing something, or why something is important to you, then you don’t know what you love. Loving what you’re doing is what should motivate you. We each need to know me, myself, and why.
You need to know what you love and who you love. We’re lost when we don’t know what we love and how much we love it. We do well when we follow what makes us tick. Be willing to sacrifice for what’s really important. Stay committed to what God gives you to do. As Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
But too often we get in our own way. The Lord calls us to something more but we’re caught up in something less. God wants us believing in what’s important but we’re more comfortable keeping to what’s insignificant.
One man said, “When I was young, I moved from Florida to Minnesota for a new job. I met a guy there and thought I was in love. Then the guy got a new job across the country in Oregon and asked me to move there with him. Thinking I was in love, I got a job transfer as close as possible to his new city (two-and-a-half-hour drive each way) to live with him in his new house. I thought we would stay together forever. A few months later, we broke up. I had nowhere to live, no friends in that state, and I was stuck all the way across the country from anyone else I knew. I felt alone, abandoned, and unloved. I was also trapped with no money, as I’d put everything I had into his house.
I was a hapless victim of love, and I played my part like Shakespeare had written it for me. I gave in completely to self-pity. I cried in public for the poor cashier at the grocery store. I wore my swollen eyes like a badge of honor.
Kind and compassionate coworkers found me a roommate with a twenty-minute commute instead of two and a half hours. They gave me solid proof that I was not alone, not abandoned, and not unloved, yet I refused to be consoled. I allowed self-pity to consume me and held tightly to my belief of being alone and unloved. Poor me, UGH!
I’m sure there were other people around me who were also in pain, struggling with homelessness, sickness, financial difficulties, bereavement, worries over children. But I didn’t see them or notice them. I didn’t care about them. I only cared about myself and my broken heart. I fed on my own misery. When I look back on that time, I am amazed that I didn’t give more consideration to the kind people who helped me.
He didn’t see what was important. He focused on the insignificant. Whether you’ve been rejected by a love interest or you’re overwhelmed by a looming deadline, throwing a pity party won’t help.
I can tell you something that’s absolutely true: What you’ve gone through isn’t fair. What you’re going through isn’t fair. No doubt about it. You didn’t deserve what happened to you and who did it to you. I couldn’t agree more. Neither can God. We’re both on your side.
But still, now what? Now what are you going to do?
You know what’s amazing is how quickly our perception of something can change. Something can seem so written in stone, and then suddenly just by thinking a different thought or looking at something from another angle, you’re freed to go on with your life. What we think is a wall is just a piece of paper. Don’t let your mind play tricks on you. Question that you really should feel as bad or as wronged as you do. Lift up your heart. Give yourself a reality check. Challenge yourself to see a new set of possibilities.
If we know anything about Peter, we know he is like us. He has all the failures that we are so familiar with in our own lives. He overestimates himself and underestimates temptation. He thinks he’s more committed than he is. He thinks he loves the Lord more than he does. He thinks he can face any trial triumphantly. And of course, he finds out he can’t.
By the time we get to this point, even though he has seen the risen Christ, Peter’s simply not sure of himself. We don’t know if he’s blaming others or himself, but we know he needs some clarity in his life. I mean after all Jesus catches them back at fishing, their old way of life. Oh, sure
sometimes we need to go backward before we go forward but this is potentially a problem. What they need is to get out of their self-pity and their low level of commitment and find their call. And that’s just what the risen Lord is about to do for Peter.
Our scripture reading a call to follow Christ. It has three components.
It is a call to love Christ; it is a call to sacrifice for Christ; it is a call to follow Christ no matter what. This is very straightforward, somewhat simple, not simplistic, but simple in the sense that it’s very clear.
Now somebody might say, “You know, Peter’s going to need to learn some stuff first before he can overcome what he’s done and gone through. He’s really messed up. Maybe some therapy to get over his guilt. There’s should be some process here for him to deal with his shame of denying he ever knew Jesus of Nazareth. There’s got to be some kind of course he needs to run before he can get to being with the church and laboring for the Lord. ”
No, not necessarily. It can be quite easy: One question, three times: “Do you love me?” Do you love Christ? You will follow what you love. You will serve what you love. You will sacrifice for what you love. Love of Christ compels us to be committed to Christ, and keep your life aligned with Christ’s values.
Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” These what, these men? No, because they had all done the same thing. They had all run. In fact, they had all run back home. So, it’s not Peter against the other disciples as much as it’s Peter against his boats, nets, fishing and former way of life. Jesus is asking Peter for a higher commitment to himself than Peter has for his way of life.
The Lord isn’t afraid to make you face yourself to see what and who are most important to you. When you have Christ calling you it always happens at the me, myself, and why level.
When Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, the Greek word for love is agapaó. It’s love in its fullest sense, love in its deepest sense, as it embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance. It goes beyond just the emotions to the extent of seeking the best for others. It’s the love God has for us and the love that gave us Christ as the gift of forgiveness and grace so that we might return to God’s life in our lives. So, Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him more completely and fully than other things he loves. Peter replies, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’”
But Peter changes the word from agape to philia, or brotherly love. Peter can say he loves Jesus but in a friendship way and a warm affection, not in the fullest way Jesus asks.
Look, Peter couldn’t say, “Yes, you know that I love you at the highest level of love.” That just wouldn’t fly. I mean he had denied him, and now he had disobeyed him, and he had enough sense not to be an absolute hypocrite and say, “Of course, I love you at the highest level.” So, he says, “Lord, I have great affection for you.” He didn’t claim agape, but he did claim phileó.
It’s a little narrow and scared and hesitant, but Jesus takes it. He can’t wait until we love the Lord with a perfect love before we’re called. What you have has to be good enough. Any love of the Lord is a starting point. And the incredible work of one who loves the Lord is to feed others.
You know, I don’t know what you believe you’re supposed to be doing as a church or individually. But if you’re someone who follows and believes and is in Christ, then you’re supposed to be feeding others. Because there are a lot of hungry people out there. And there isn’t much feeding going on, or at least there can always be more.
Why would you step up to this? Because you love Christ. That’s why. I know it’s a big job, but loving God means doing what God loves. And God loves to save people and feed them life and give them hope and bring them in from the outside and show them they have a home.
The truth is sometimes we’re asked to do a lot. If you have a heart for the Lord, then your heart is in it. This is the why of your life. Don’t wait any longer. Come to love the Lord more than you have. Christ is trying to hand important things and people over to you. Be faithful. Stick to what you love and who you love.
You know what’s amazing is that our story ends with Christ telling Peter at the end of his life he will be taken where he doesn’t want to go, that in other words, it isn’t going to end well. But Peter didn’t turn away. He was done with self-pity. He was ready to follow the call and follow Christ.
We want to take more risks for our faith. Step up to make sure the gospel comes alive for more people. Let your love of the Lord feed more people. Can the church say Amen?