Who is all this really about…

You, or Christ?

“Do you love me?” The interaction between Peter and Jesus in John 21 produced one of the penetrating of all challenges in the New Testament.

Entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders alike… this same interaction could also be asked of us.  All those who stand at the crossroads of ministry today, and called to be leaders are under the same scrutiny Peter had to face: Do you love me?

Peter, as we move forward, do you love me to live into how I have shaped and prepared you to minister, or will you make this about things that resemble ambition, self-made plans, and visions of greatness?

If ministry is ever about you, it can’t be about Him. One way to translate that defining moment for Peter could be questions like these:

“Is what I am doing for Christ or me?”

“Is this about what Christ truly wants, or my pathology?”

“Is this about His praise or my validation?”

Keep going…

“What’s driving me: Worship or Ambition?”

“Is He enough, or do I need more?”

These questions are hard and required. By nature, we are subjective, lost in our opinions, tainted by what it means to be human, consumed with our ratings. Questions like these are what I call continuum questions; we can never be absolutely sure… but on which side of the spectrum do we land?

A case study of the life of Peter reveals a wild-eyed fisherman that people followed. It appears they followed not because he was always right, but because of his passion and willingness to believe. Peter was an early adopter. I envision Peter to be the one others would say… “if Peter’s in, than so am I!”

So when Andrew finds Christ, and find Peter announcing that the Messiah has been found (Matthew 2).., its big. And when Christ singles out Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah, it was a big deal (John 6).  And when Peter jumps out of the boat, grabs the sword to defend Jesus, or proclaims he would never reject Christ, those are important moments.

Jesus’ words to Peter in John 21 come after a long series of post-resurrection appearances of Christ, and precedes Jesus’ ascension. Peter and the tribe had now seen, over and over again, proof positive that Jesus had done the impossible, and conquered the grave. Talk about big!

It is interesting that Jesus’ finds Peter and the other disciples fishing that early morning.

Sometimes leaders turn back to what they know (fishing) as opposed to moving forward into what they do not know (new movement). The fish-fry on the beach was evidence that Jesus wanted Peter the man, as opposed to Peter the worker. Jesus did not want what he knew (before), he what who he was (future).

Jesus’ three-time challenge to Peter does reveal the different declensions for love; agape and phileo has been widely discussed. Biblical accuracy is huge to me.

But I also believe Jesus appears to be after something more… intent.

Eugene Peterson’s work on The Message is so rich and vivid in terms of peering behind the text. I think a case can be made that Jesus was going after his “intent” as a leader.

“As this now begins Peter, what’s driving you?”

“Peter… are you in this for you, or for me?”

“Are you in this to leverage me, and benefit from what you have seen , or do you love me?

To leverage means to exert “power to influence a person or situation to achieve a particular outcome.”  Peter could do that. He had the wiring and natural abilities. He was a promoter. Where he decided to go, others went. What he did, others would follow. So it is with many of us.

Peter tries to deflect.  He wants to know why Jesus isn’t also going after the others… like John for example. All attempts to skirt the issue. Just like many of us.

Yet Peter knew that Jesus knew… his intent in the future must be love… not leverage. A message that leaders like many of us must sit, take in and feel its challenge.

My pathology says I can sometimes care more about what others think, than what Jesus thinks. I can catch myself wandering down the leverage hallway… rather than the sanctuary. All leaders must admit that. All leaders must re-visit that question… “do you love me?”

What do you think? Are you in it for Him or you?

Can Jesus actually trust you to lead from a base of intimacy and surrender? Or will your instincts take you to your natural abilities and personality?

Are you in it for Him, or for You?

© Terry Walling 2014