If sharing your belief in Jesus with others is a challenge which you shrink from (and no harm, no foul – you’re far from alone), then Jesus would ask of you a series of questions that might help you recalibrate your heart.
The first question Jesus would ask us if we struggle with evangelism is, “Do you love me enough?” In other words, my struggles with witnessing could be a question of my devotion to Jesus. This principle shouldn’t be too hard to understand. We talk about those things we love. The feelings are so strong in us, we can’t hold them back. It’s part of who we are. It just comes out.
It doesn’t take people very long before they learn that I love Mountain Dew, racquetball, beaches and dandelion-free lawns, because I’m always yapping about them. But if we don’t love something all that much, or we’re embarrassed in any way by it, then mum’s the word.
In John 21 is a story of Jesus appearing before the disciples at the Sea of Galilee. The boys are out fishing, at Peter’s suggestion. But after a night of casting their nets, they haven’t caught so much as a stick of seaweed. Till Jesus appears on the shore, tells them to cast their nets on the other side at which point they nearly swamp the boat with all the fish they catch.
John, who’s seen this movie before, says, “It’s the Lord!” and impulsive Peter makes like a labrador retriever seeing a duck, and dives into the water to swim to shore. After they’ve enjoyed a fish breakfast (John pauses to tell us that they caught 153 fish), Jesus pulls Peter aside and asks him three times in succession, “Peter, do you love me more than these?”
I almost feel sorry for Peter here. It’s as if Jesus were picking on him. But think about it. What was Peter doing when Jesus first met him? Fishing. And now here it is three years later, it’s after the resurrection, Jesus has already told the disciples in chapter 20, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Yet what does Jesus find Peter doing? Fishing.
Fishing is Peter’s default pleasure setting. I don’t know why he loved to fish, because every time you read about Peter fishing in the gospels, he can never catch any. But he was the kind of guy where you give him a boat, and a net, and a lake, and he was set. He was in his element. We all have something in our lives that’s like that for us.
Not that there was anything wrong with this. It’s not wrong to do the things we love to do. But it’s very easy, if we’re not careful, for the things we love to do to become competition for the One we are to love the most.
“Do you love me more than these?” Jesus asks Peter, no doubt looking about the beach at the 153 fish flopping on the sand, the drying nets, and the peaceful shore of the lake. (And since Peter was in the business of fishing, a good case can be made that he was the one who counted up the fish. He knew the monetary value of their haul.)
When you look about your life right now – especially the business part of it – of what activities and interests would Jesus ask you, “Do you love me more than these?”
One thing Jesus demands from those who follow him is that he be first in their heart above all else. He demands that we make him our “first love”. And if we say, “Yes, Lord, I love you more than these”, then he gives us a way to show it. It’s what he says next, three times to Peter, after asking the love questions.
“Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep.”
Peter will show his love for Jesus by going and finding lost lambs and wandering sheep, then bringing them to the Good Shepherd. And the same will be true for us. If you look in Jesus’ eyes and say, “Lord, I love you”, then Jesus will turn you around to the world out there and say, “Then there are sheep of mine out there that must be found, and fed and cared for. Go and find some of them.”
For the child of God, the beach, the lake, the lawn, wherever your hiding place is, cannot be a permanent way of life. It’s a place to go to for rest and renewal, but then Jesus will ask you to join him on his mission of reaching this lost and broken world.
If you make Jesus your first love and accept his mission for your life, I promise you, you will end up a long, long way from where it’s at now. And your life will certainly not be easier than it would be if you stayed at the lake doing only the things you felt like doing.
But your life will be better than you could ever imagine if you find a way to serve your Lord, and reach out to the lost and wandering lambs he died to save.
Do you love me more than these? Maybe if you struggle with evangelism, that’s the issue you need to settle today.
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