‘Do you love me?’

May 2017

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said. “You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 
– John 21:15

Simon Peter swore he would lay down his life for Jesus. But then, Peter swore that he didn’t know Jesus. Three times. Now, Jesus is alive again! Peter longs to set things right. To learn whether Jesus still loves him.

Does he? Does he love us? Knowing who we are inside? Knowing our bluster and our weakness? If Jesus is really risen from the dead, does he love you?

But Jesus turns that question on its head. He asks Peter: “Do you love me?” “Yes, Lord.” “Well then, feed my lambs.” As though he hadn’t heard, Jesus asks, “Do you truly love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replies. Three times.

What we love matters. Love is at the centre of who Jesus is, and what he came to do. Love is at the heart of why Jesus died. Love is at the core of what Jesus is doing. Today. Here.

Yes! Jesus loves you! He died for you. He rose for you. And he asks us, “Do you love me?” It’s a strange concept—to love one we can’t see or touch. But it’s what God has longed for since the start. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Teresa of Avila said: “God, I don’t love you. I don’t even want to love you. But I want to want to love you.” God can work with that. Because it’s always God who loves first. We only begin to love God as we discover God’s unfailing, limitless love for us.

Do you love me more than these? Jesus asks. Whatever ‘these’ are: Job. Friends. Independence. Grades on our transcript. The amount of our paycheque. Our health. Do you love me more?

Jesus asks Peter the love-question as a sign of forgiveness. And an invitation to get in on what Jesus is doing.

Imagine this: One evening a mom entrusts her teenaged daughter with the car to get groceries. Instead, the daughter picks up friends and goes for a joy ride. She takes a corner too fast, and ends up in the ditch. The car’s front end looks like an accordion.

The next time the mom puts her daughter to work with car keys and a grocery list, that work will mean the daughter is forgiven, and the mom is ready to trust her.

Because Jesus has forgiven Peter, Jesus gives Peter work to do. Because he has forgiven us, he gives us work to do, too. And what we need in this job is love for Jesus.

But like Teresa of Avila, it’s often true that we really don’t love Jesus. Well… even our love for Jesus is not something we produce on our own!

He pours his love into us without condition. His love changes us. The more we embrace his love; the more we welcome him and trust the risen Lord, the more we’ll learn to love him. And the more we love Jesus, the more we’ll open our hearts to receive his gifts for the work he gives us.

As we depend on Jesus, he helps us do for others what he has done for us. Jesus is alive! He loves you. How will he put you to work?