16Again He said to him the second time, Simon, son of John, do you love Me [with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion, as one loves the Father]? He said to Him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love You [that I have a deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. He said to him, Shepherd (tend) My sheep. –John 21:16 (AMP)
With a giddiness of heart, sweaty little palms, head bowed low over shoulders encircling the paper, it begins. Do you love me? Yes or No: check the box. Sometimes the paper would bear a heart or smiley face. Then it was carefully folded and ever so silently as to not be caught, it was passed along the desks until it reached the hands of the intended.
Paying attention was completely out of the question at this point as the eagerness to see the mark in the box was anticipated. Upon receiving the note the emotional volley would be back in the writer’s court as they unfolded the paper. The answer to the question would be written all over the child’s face and everyone would know.
Disappointment or a delighted smile would be etched in everyone’s memory in relation to this seemingly private matter. The marvel of it all would not come out of an answer of yes but no. Most of the time, after a momentary look of dejection, you would see the sweeping motion of an eraser wiping away the stain. Only then would you see the paper refolded and passed to another receiver, in another direction of the room.
Childhood affection seemingly so insignificant and immature has much to offer us in life lessons. Children are direct in their pursuits and what they want. They have this innate ability to speak their mind regardless of being hushed by the propriety of their statements. They can argue for what they believe is their right to their own and then embrace the one they were arguing with in forgiveness and play like nothing ever happened.
While these characteristics should be guided and molded to live a healthy life, sadly, most of the time it is not. They are taught to repress their true feelings for the sake of being politically correct. They learn it’s better to lie to save someone’s feelings than to tell them the truth in love. They are brought up to embrace wrong thinking and behaviors for the sake of acceptance all the while pushing down their own opinions.
It is a life cycle that breeds constant dissention within one’s spirit in the innermost being. A continual battle with what you know and believe in your own heart, yet are constantly being told your thoughts don’t count as much as the other persons. That what they believe is always more important than what you believe.
As adults, even Christian adults, we still struggle with this frustration. How did the blatant black and white honesty of a passed note in childhood change over to your opinion no longer matters? If you dare stand for your voice to be heard in any form contrary, you are labeled an opposition leader of hate.
Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?”
Yes, Jesus could see Peter’s heart, He knew Peter loved Him. The question was for the benefit of Peter. Jesus knew Peter would deny Him, but He also knew Peter would turn back to Him with a holy fervor again. He wanted him to have this conversation to look back on as a reminder. He wanted Peter to understand what loving Him meant.
Simon, son of John, do you love Me [with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion, as one loves the Father]?
Love here is intentional. It requires reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion. Unlike the dejected child that erased the answer that they didn’t like and passed the note to someone else in the other direction.
Christian maturity representing love for Christ is intentional. Salvation is a free gift yes, but a love for Christ and representing Christ is intentional. It requires reasoning and intentional, spiritual devotion. How did Peter answer Him?
Yes, Lord, You know that I love You [that I have a deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend].
I love how Peter says yes Lord, but the description of the love in Peter’s answer is different than the love that Jesus was asking him about. Jesus did not address that but responded, “Tend My sheep.”
I believe the point Jesus was trying to drive home to Peter here was that tending His sheep would require a reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion. The love Jesus was asking of Peter and the love Peter answered to were different.
Loving His sheep is not always easy. It requires effort. An intentional effort based on spiritual devotion to Him. But reasoning is what leads me to the acknowledgement that I am not always easy to love either. Yet Jesus has not erased the note that He passed to me and then passed it onto someone else.
His outpouring of love, His pursuit of each of us, His laying His life down to save us was intentional. He said He loved us and His actions back it up.
His love for Peter in His question was reasoning, intentional and full of spiritual devotion. And He asks that of us as well. If He asks you today, how will you answer?