I’m beginning the final lap of seminary, and there’s a common question that typically arises that goes something like this:
What’s your plan post-graduation?
Ah, yes. To be honest, the question frustrates me despite the ill-will intentions for asking the question. People want to know. The reality is… I don’t know.
And many of my fellow students don’t know either.
I’m finding that most of us in seminary are looking for that “dream” position. We’re craving for longing and to be wanted. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those things. There’s sometimes an awkward “jockeying” for a position to “get ahead” of one another. We strive for well-thought out answers to interview questions. We desire to create something extraordinary out of our well-planned mission and vision when we land that “dream” job. Although these types of things aren’t explicitly stated, they undergird much of our motivation. We desire to be wanted and to be used – but only when we land the position.
I began to ask myself: Is this a Christ-like posture? Better yet, is this remotely close to what Jesus might have for leaders in his Church?
At the end of John’s Gospel, Peter and Jesus share an intimate moment around the presence of a charcoal fire. Earlier that night, Peter and the disciples went fishing. This was Peter’s way of life; he was a fisherman. After an unsuccessful night fishing, the disciples see Jesus on the shore. He commands them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, and they haul in a large number of fish. Peter is the first person to jump out of the boat and starts swimming toward Jesus.
Do you love me more than these? Do you love me? Do you love me?
Peter’s authenticity is highlighted throughout this Gospel. He’s been quite the character; he’s been known for his brash sayings, his quick responses, and enthusiasm for his Lord.
Jesus’ first question for Peter begs the question: “Peter, do you love me more than the enormous amount of fish you’ve just caught?”
We are – first and foremost – called to be disciples of Jesus. Peter’s occupation as a fisherman is secondary to his primary calling. For Peter, this taken Jesus’ entire earthly ministry to figure out. We’re all called to be followers of Jesus.
Do we love Jesus? There’s a reason that Jesus asks this question three times. Peter’s the means by which the Church is built. As disciples, our first and foremost way in which we make the biggest impact is not by “dream” position we wish to have, but by our deep love for Jesus. That’s how Jesus intends his Church to be built.
We must deeply love whom Jesus has placed in our care. In this interaction, Jesus does not say, “love me!” The way in which we love Jesus is by taking great care of them. This does not have to happen from a place of position in ministry. Jesus’ response to Peter is now a call to shepherd those whom are in His flock. Jesus is calling Peter to primarily be concerned about people. Quite simply, Jesus is saying “please take good care of my people.”
In whatever arena we find ourselves: whom has Jesus placed in our care that we can deeply love? What may produce the most fruitful and “successful” ministry is by loving the people in our midst. Jesus is calling all disciples to love His people.
That’s the position I want.