John 21:17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
As I was reading this famous story just now it struck me that Jesus was dealing with the motive for pastoral ministry. It’s easy to realize that you shouldn’t go into ministry for “fame and fortune” (though some do seem to have that motive). Going into ministry because you love people would seem, on the face of it, to be very noble. However, Jesus is saying here that we aren’t to go into ministry because we love people, but because we love Him. We are of course to love people; that is commanded many times. However, the motive for ministry isn’t to be those to whom we minister, but the One whom we serve. Two thing come into play here. For one thing, Jesus said clearly that the truest sign of love for Him is obedience to Him. (John 14:15, 23) If we love Him and He tells us, “Feed my sheep,” we’d better do it! The other side of that is that sometimes people aren’t very lovable. They will ignore, abandon, betray, desert, and otherwise “despitefully use” you. (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:28 KJV) However, Jesus will never do those things. Loving people isn’t a very reliable motive for serving them. I’ve told people many times, “Don’t go into the ministry unless God gives you no other choice.” Actually, God always gives us the choice of either obeying Him or not, but the point is that sometimes He makes it clear that if we are to obey Him, that means going into ministry. In a sense every believer is a minister, but this is talking about being a shepherd to a flock, and that is never to be taken lightly.
You could say that God had to “drag me kicking and screaming” into ministry. In the first place, I had no desire to go back to school, but since I didn’t see a way to be a missionary (which was how the Lord was leading me) without going through the mission board of a denomination, (I was pretty ignorant at the time) and since the Southern Baptists required seminary for that, I “surrendered to seminary,” so to speak. After graduation they were being uncooperative, (they just recently changed the rules to allow those with Charismatic gifts to be appointed as missionaries) and I ended up pastoring a rural church in Virginia for a couple of years. After that the Lord opened the way for me to come back to Japan as an English teacher, legally speaking. I desired to minister, specifically teaching the Bible, but I didn’t really want to pastor a flock. Then, circumstances developed that people were getting saved in the English Bible class that met in our home, but the local Baptist church wasn’t being accepting of them, and we became Shinsei no Sato (which means, Home of New Life). I do love my spiritual children, but there hasn’t been a one who hasn’t hurt me in some way. If my motive for ministry were love for the sheep, I would have quit a long time ago! However, I do love my Lord, and He says, “Feed my sheep.”
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for Your faithfulness, even when I and those around me are so unreliable. Help me express my love for You in full obedience, allowing Your love to flow through me to those around me, even when they are no more worthy of it than I am. Thank You. Praise God!