By Ralph V. Reynolds
“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep” (John 21:16).
Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Lovest thou me?” Three times Jesus instructed Peter to feed His sheep.
There are several truths that may be learned from this beautiful story.
- If we love Jesus we shall also love God’s children.
- To show our love for Jesus we must minister to His sheep.
- We may minister to Jesus by ministering to His church.
- To properly tend sheep we must first love the sheep.
It is difficult to deceive the flock with a feigned love. The sheep know whether the shepherd loves them. They know if his ministry is merely professional and motivated by self-interests. Heart power can be felt. When he ministers from a heart full of love there will be a response. He does not need to tell them that he loves them. They will already know it. They also will know if his ministry is motivated by self-interests only.
A good wife who loves her husband will spend hours preparing a meal. She will cook food that he enjoys. Her efforts will be to please the man she loves. Her reward is to see her husband eat well and enjoy his food.
Likewise the pastor who loves his flock will not feed them leftovers and warmed up hash. He will spend hours on his knees hearing from God and studying the Bible. It will not be that he might preach an eloquent oration. The effort is put forth because he loves his flock. Therefore he feeds them well. The preparation that goes into his messages will be directly proportioned to the amount of love he has for them.
An example of a preacher who only ministered because of carnal motives is a certain bible teacher I once knew in one of our camp meetings. It was time for him to enter the tabernacle to speak to the crowd. He turned to another preacher and said, “Well, it is time for me to go in and say something to these birds.”
What an insult to God’s saints! What a confession from a man who is wholly ignorant of his calling! What a horrible tragedy!
Sometimes evangelists will spend the day sightseeing until it is almost church time. Then he grabs a message at the last minute on the run. What a disgrace! The people have come to church after a hard day’s work expecting to hear a message from God. Instead they get a play back of a warmed up sermon that has already been practiced upon congregations from Dan to Beersheba.
Love for the sheep must be real. It cannot be counterfeited. There is little difficulty in loving the precious lambs that have been brought into the fold under one’s own ministry. The problem lies in loving the old sheep that have been in the church for years. Previous pastors have taught them. Their ways are set and not likely to change easily. Can a pastor love those who are giving him difficulty?
Certainly! In a family it is the sick child or the wayward son who will receive the most attention and love. The straying sheep will need the most attention and eventually will receive the lost love.
How can a person love the unloving? How can a pastor continue to love a person who refuses to respond? First of all, ask the Lord to baptize your heart with love. Jesus can fill your hear with love for the unlovable. Secondly, you learn to love by loving. You learn to swim by swimming. You learn to preach by preaching. You learn to love by loving. Begin to share and give of yourself. It will be amazing just how much love will flood your heart once you have started to love and care.
True love for the saints will be revealed in many ways. Time that is spent in sermon preparation, in visitation and counseling, will not be begrudged. The tome of the minister’s voice will show what is in the heart. He will not speak roughly to the sheep. Even when it is necessary to rebuke it will be done with longsuffering (II Timothy 4:2).
“…The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
The shepherd who does not love the sheep will be quite unwilling to sacrifice for them. The shepherd who loves will be willing to die for his flock. He will be giving, sharing, and sacrificing all the way. The motivating power of this will be love.
He will consider no sacrifice too great. As a result there will be a beautiful reward. If the shepherd loves the sheep, he will be rewarded with their love. If he speaks, they will listen to his voice. If he leads they will follow. If he sacrifices they will sacrifice. If he is willing to die for them, they will be willing to die for him.
As a result the relationship that will develop between pastor and saints will be wholesome and beautiful. The assembly of the saints will be seasoned with precious unity and fellowship. There will be sweet harmony building a church that will experience a Holy Ghost revival. Such a church will grow, and grow, and grow!
The above article “The Ministry of Love” is written by Ralph V. Reynolds. This article was excerpted from chapter twenty in Reynolds’s book If The Sheep Could Speak.
The material is copyrighted and should not be repainted under any other name or author. However, this material may freely be used for personal study or purposes.