Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ministry is a Love Affair.

Ministry is a love affair with Jesus.

Ministry is also 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 carried because of love for the Lord. In fact it is when our love 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. The Lord getting Peter to probe his own heart and confront the issues is tender yet direct. 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 to deal 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, true ministry first and foremost has to be an affair of the heart. Anything less is either being a mere hireling, a prestige thing (that’s an illusion) or someone with ulterior motives.

As the Lord drew Peter out of regret Jesus heard the words I’m sure Peter said with emotion and tears: “Lord you know all things, you know that I love you [phileo = as a friend]”. Whilst it can be said this was a stepdown from the majestic word for love, agape, it seems a more intimate and therefore person response. Was Peter reminded by the Lord’s using “phileo” of Jesus wonderful term for him the other disciples in John 15:15. Peter was still ordained (chosen) to serve. He was still capable of bearing fruit favoured by the Lord. He may have fallen but it was a pruning experience used to enrich his love for the Lord Jesus, his Friend! Now he was commissioned.

The instructions Jesus gave to Peter about 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. 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) What implications can you see colouring his comments? Surely one of them must be we are shepherds of the flock because we are the friends of Jesus.

Love won the day on the sands of Galilee and we are the richer for it.

Ray Hawkins Jan 11 2016

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