Henry Nouwen, in his book, “In the Name of Jesus – Reflections on Christian Leadership” directs Christian to the question asked of Peter before Jesus commissioned him to be a shepherd: “‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
[Peter] said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time [Jesus] said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter he said to him, ‘Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:15-17) We have to hear that question as being central to how we are called to live our lives.
Look at how the world treated Jesus. The world did not pay any attention to him. He was crucified and put away. Jesus’ message of love was rejected by a world in search of power, efficiency and control. But there he was, appearing with wounds to a few friends who had eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand.
This rejected, unknown, wounded Jesus simply asked, “Do you really love me?” He whose only concern had been to announce the unconditional love of God had only one question to ask, “Do you love me?”
The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Do you know the incarnate God?
In our world today, which seems full of despair, division and darkness, there is an enormous need for people who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, cares, reaches out and wants to heal.
Nouwen explains that to be connected to the great Source of Love, we must be practice contemplative, thoughtful and reflective prayer.
He says regarding prayer: Christians must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and need to find there the source for their words, advice and guidance.
Christian leaders have to learn to listen again and again to the voice of love and to find there the wisdom and courage to address whatever issue presents itself to them. When we listen this way, then it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.
Jesus asks us the same question: “Do you love me?” If our response to this question is, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” then, as Christians, we must in return love and care for all of God’s children.