“Do you love me more than these?”
Do you have a tendency to overestimate your stamina? Have you ever committed to an activity, then wondered where you were going to find the energy to get through it? Did you then try to shame or guilt yourself into having the energy? “I told them I would do it. They expect me to. I should be motivated. I’m supposed to be the leader here.” It may work, but is this any way to serve?
In John 21, Peter runs ahead of the others to reach Jesus first as the others haul in the fish. He moves beyond what he needs to do, desiring to be the first, the best, the most enthusiastic, the most deeply committed…sometimes thinking too much of himself. The latter half of this chapter is often seen as Jesus’ restoration of Peter to ministry. He reorients Peter with a series of questions, the same question, in fact: “Do you love me?” More than “these,” the other disciples who were sitting right there? Peter overestimates what it takes to be himself and keeps insisting he has what it takes to follow Jesus. Jesus keeps replying, “Do you love me? Here’s what it takes to love me: serve my people.” Immediately after this exchange, Peter still asks Jesus about John’s fate, to be told that it’s none of his business. He still compares himself to John, one of “these,” instead of shifting his focus to loving Jesus.
As we think of our call to serve, a better motivator than shame or guilt would be to ask, “Lord, do I love you? Who are you, and what is it that you have done for me? What does it look like for me to love you today?”