SCRIPTURE: John 21:17 (TM)
Then he said it a third time: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, "Do you love me?" so he answered, "Master, you know everything there is to know. You've got to know that I love you."
STORY by Francis Xavier:
My God, I love Thee; not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
Nor yet because who love Thee not
Are lost eternally.
Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails, and spear,
And manifold disgrace,
And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
Yea, death itself; and all for me
Who was thine enemy.
Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the sake of winning heaven,
Nor of escaping hell;
Not from the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as Thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord.
So would I love Thee, dearest Lord,
And in Thy praise will sing;
Solely because Thou art my God,
And my most loving King.
We really do wish the question could be asked differently… do you love me? But there it is asked of Peter and asked of us. When we combine this scripture with the one in Luke 14:25-33 – specifically vs. 26: "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters - yes, even one's own self! - can't be my disciple.” While most translation has the “let go of” as “hate”, the idea of “letting go” is powerful.
How often has a pastor heard, “Pastor, I(we) won’t be in church on Sunday because we have family coming in” … “got tickets to the football game” … “will be at the NASCAR race” … “will be attending a family reunion” … and so the list goes on. I never really know how to respond because family is important and so are times to renew relationships and our souls. So I kind of leave everyone to work out the details as to how their lifestyle and commitments live out the reality of “letting go”.
The poem by Francis Xavier has always been powerful. There was one time that I got into a lot of hot water with the senior pastor of the church when I mentioned, during Bible study, “Would we still love God if a heavenly reward wasn’t factored into the picture?” Francis reminds us that we should love God for no other reason than he is God… our God! And therein lies the dilemma for us – How can we be loyal and committed to our family and friends and love God as the ultimate in our lives?
Peter was pained by Jesus asking him if Peter loved him – not once, not twice, but three times. But isn’t that the root to our spiritual journey… do we love him more than anything else and anyone else? And do we love him regardless of our eternal future? Every day and every moment we are answering that question… and God is looking at the fruits of our labor to discover just how we are answering that burning question.
Make us an instrument of love. May others experience the love of God simply by meeting us. May we be living examples of love in all that we say and do. May we live love, breathe love, sleep love, talk love, show love … every moment of every day.