What would turn a King into a servant? And more than that, one who washed the feet of His disciples! John 13. What would motivate the King to become the ransom price for His subjects? Matthew 20:28.
Love in its true and pure form. As the song says ‘Love, love changes everything…’ which is very true when considering the word ‘minister.’ It means servant, but in the Bible, this derogatory term in the eyes of so many is elevated to a great height. How? Because it is applied to Jesus and His role that He lived out whilst on earth.
He made ministry a love relationship. It is to this relationship our Lord and Saviour calls His followers.
Ministry is a love affair with Jesus. It covers more dimensions than being a preacher. Included is every aspect of a person expressing His or her love for the Lord in some form of service. A Biblical example is that of Dorcas who used her dress-making skills to benefit others (Acts 9:36-41)
The special call to the Ministry of preaching has certain pressures and demands which will only be handled by a strong love for Jesus. When He calls a person to this role it becomes a burden unable to be relinquished without a sense of loss. Paul cried out ‘…I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.’ 1 Corinthians 9:16. The burden, no matter how great is not really noticed because of love for the Lord. It is when our love for Christ Jesus is weak that we notice the burden. Once our eyes are off the Lord we see the magnitude of the task: the wretchedness of sinfulness: the fickleness of people and our own weaknesses. Such burdens are simply too much to bear.
When my devotion to the Lord is weak and waning then too my capacity to love others is weakened. From a Biblical viewpoint all relational breakdowns really stem from fading love. When John said we love because Christ first loved us it also implies the reverse. When our love for the Lord is dim so too our capacity to love others. When we refresh our love for Jesus the statement by Paul to the Thessalonians will happen. ‘May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else…May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.’ 1 Thessalonians 3:12–13.
When Jesus took Peter aside after the resurrection, it was to love a failure back into his calling. Peter thought he could find fulfilment back on the water, catching fish, being unencumbered by apostolic responsibilities. Would he have ever been satisfied? He had tasted the Lord’s call. Love may have a price tag but a bigger price is paid when love’s call is sidestepped. Was that what Peter was realising when the Lord appeared on the scene? Peter’s exuberance of jumping overboard and wading ashore to be in Jesus’ presence could point to this fact. But the terrible hash Peter had made of things the days before the crucifixion needed healing attention. Would his mouth and behaviour cancel out any prospects of serving the Lord?
We will all have our own imaginative scene of Jesus and Peter sitting on the sand side by side and the Lord getting Peter to probe his own heart. The question ‘Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ cuts deep. In other words, ‘would you really be happy doing anything else than following me in service?’ Here the challenge of love’s commitment was being offered anew. Here was grace dealing with the defeatism of guilt, shame, self-pity and self-interests. ‘Is there anything you would rather do than accept my invitation to follow me’ seems to be what Jesus is getting at. This is ever the battle ground in the soul. Do we love the Lord more than ‘these’ – whatever ‘these’ may be? Ministry first and foremost has to be an affair of the heart.
The instructions Jesus gave to Peter about future ministry are informative. He was to feed the lambs, shepherd the little sheep and feed the little sheep. Imagine that. A fisherman is turned into a shepherd. It worked. Years later Peter writes to Church leaders and tells them to shepherd the flock of God. This should not be by compulsion or, worse still, because of monetary gain or for ego domination. (1 Peter 5:1–4) Love won the day on the sands of Galilee and we are the richer for it.
Reflection: As lovers of the Lord and His people how well are we shepherding and feeding those in our care?
Request: Lord, refresh my heart in your love. May my ministry express the heartbeat of my love for you in word and deed! Amen