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Leading in a Multi-ethnic Church Series, Part I

15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

18Peter 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.

19 …Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:15-18; 19b, King James Version).

Introduction: Agape Love and Shepherding Christ’s Flock
Did you know that the Greek word agape appears 116 times in the New Testament? According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, as used of God, agapao (the verb form of agape) “expresses the deep and constant love and interest of a perfect Being towards entirely unworthy objects” (John 3:16; Romans 5:8, King James Version). Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior displayed agape love perfected in human form among men (2 Corinthians 5:14; Ephesians 2:4; 3:19; 5:2). In turn, Jesus commands that we “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34, New International Version).

Agape love is the most crucial factor in shepherding Christ’s flock, His beloved, whom He entrusts to every man and woman who answers the call to follow Him. First, agape love identifies who we are in Christ. Second, once we put on the mind of Christ, agape love serves as the foundation for leadership, guiding our heart, our mind, and our hands. Thus, it is through the combination of our identity and actions that the love of Christ is ministered to others.

Agape Love Identifies Who We Are in Christ
We are God’s chosen people, separated from the rest of mankind to be God’s own and hand selected before the foundation of the world. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world…” (Ephesians 1:4, King James Version). God created our identity and founded it on the premise of His unconditional, agape love. He extends His love to us and further develops our identity through blessings, which are the gifts of His work among men. God’s love flows through and binds each blessing, one to the other. Apostle Paul specifies the nine blessings in Ephesians 1:3-13:

    • Blessed us with all spiritual blessings (1:3)
    • Chose us to be holy (1:4)
    • Predestinated us to be sons (1:5)
    • Made us accepted unto God (1:6)
    • Redeemed us by His blood (1:7)
    • Abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence (1:8)
    • Made known to us his will (1:9)
    • Gave us an inheritance (1:11)
    • Sealed us with the Spirit (1:13)
These very blessings are as relevant today to believers, as the blessings were yesterday to the saints at Ephesus. Accordingly, as with the saints of Ephesus, our blessings define who we are and whose we are. When we walk in our blessings, we are a living testimony of Christ’s love and transmit it to others. The love of God identifies us as His chosen. Additionally, His love reconciles us to Him. At the same time, our identity in and reconciliation to Him differentiates us from others. When we accept Jesus’ calling to follow Him, we must be prepared to walk in a way that glorifies God.

Agape Love and Putting on the Mind of Christ in Leadership
Scripture tells us not to conform to the ways of the world (Romans 12:2). Further, this passage says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Whether at the pulpit or in the street, we must always put on the mind of Christ to enable ourselves to shepherd in love and make decisions that maintain the will of God in the lives of His flock – That which is good, acceptable and perfect. This descriptive trio explains the will of God as goodness, joy, happiness, well pleasing and divine perfection. Jesus commands us to “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 19:19). If we can embrace love by putting on the mind of Christ in the daily attitudes and actions of our mind, heart, and hands, we can carry out the feeding of and caring for His lambs and sheep according to His will. We shepherd God’s will be done to reconcile His people to Him, just as “the Son of man came …to give his live a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). The question arises as to whether we can love others like Christ loved us and follow Him.

Conclusion: A Call to Action To Follow Christ in Agape Love
The point remains of whether we can follow Jesus and do so the first time He calls. “Follow me…Follow thou me” (John 21:19 and 22). To follow Him, we have to join Him in love, walk in our identity in love and guide our heart, mind and hands in love. Let us pose Jesus’ same questions to Peter, but in contemporary times:

15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
18Peter 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.
19 …Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:15-18; 19b, King James Version).

Do You Love Them Like Jesus?

    Do you love Jesus? Do you love the homeless?
    Do you love Jesus? Do you love those who look different than you?
    Do you love Jesus? Do you love the poor?
    Do you love Jesus? Do you love the addicted?
    Do you love Jesus? Do you love homosexuals and lesbians?
    Do you love Jesus? Do you love those with skin color different than yours?
    Do you love Jesus? Do you love the disenfranchised?
Do you love Jesus? Can you follow Him?

Jan Paron
May 5, 2010