Love for the Shepherd matters much more than love for the sheep. Loving the Shepherd is so much more important than loving shepherding.
All our ministry must flow from love for Jesus. Without this we are nothing. We have nothing (1 Corinthians 13). When you boil it all down, Christianity is about loving God and loving people. But we are to love God first, and love Him most. It is possible to love preaching and teaching – feeding ‘’sheep’’ and ‘’lambs’’ – and other aspects of Christian ministry, more than we love Christ Himself. It’s a danger to be aware of and to try and avoid. A friend went to visit a very sick person in intensive care. He realised, as he walked towards the man’s bed, that it was the very spot where he had watched one of his own relatives die. In this case, several years had intervened, but it was like the recreation of scene he’d ‘acted’ in previously. It triggered sad memories and strong emotions. Peter must have vividly remembered being around a charcoal fire in the recent past. At that fireside he had denied knowing Jesus three times. Now it was like the Lord had deliberately recreated the situation to graciously help Peter move on. Three times Jesus quizzed His frail disciple about his love for Him. Three times Peter confessed his love. Three times Jesus commissioned him.It was as if, with each charge to feed His flock, Jesus was wiping out the denials; wiping the slate clean. How we should take encouragement from this. How merciful our Lord is.
Tom Wright tells a story of how one night, after a dinner party, a guest was eager to help with the washing up. He and his wife kept encouraging the man to go and sit down, but he was insistent about helping. In his excitement, a crystal glass got broken. He was upset; Tom Wright and his wife were pretty devastated. Afterwards they talked about what forgiving this man might look like. The next time he came for dinner, they gave him a tea towel! To my mind, that smells of grace.
PRAYER: Thank you Lord Jesus for your grace and mercy expressed towards me.