John 21:16b “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
I had the privilege of coaching for many years. The majority of that time was spent coaching my kids’ sports teams. While there are always plenty of challenges with clubs, with parents, with officials etc, it was a very special and rewarding time for me.
While I’m sure I was able to pass on some important and valuable technical information and skills, I know that there was something far more important that the kids needed from me. I know I was far from perfect in this regard, but I certainly hope before anything else I was a caring teacher and a role model. Impressionable young people look to their coach to see how they respond when on the receiving end of a poor call from an official, or when the team suffers a critical loss. Many kids have little support at home and even rely on a coach for personal problems or, more challenging, they come with emotional baggage and inappropriate behaviour. In these times a coach needs to truly care enough about these kids to put the kids’ needs above their own, and thereby demonstrate to an entire team the values of kindness, concern, generosity, charity and much more. A great coach, whether a Christian or not, will demonstrate the attributes above. How much more do we as Christian athletes and Christian leaders need to demonstrate love to those God entrusts to us?!
The story in today’s reading from John 21: 15-19 is a special one. Just a few chapters back in John 18 we read about Peter’s denial of Jesus three times. John 21 shows God’s grace towards Peter in allowing him to recommit himself to Jesus three times. While there are so many lessons in this passage, I want to focus on one key aspect – love. The question Jesus asks each time, albeit in slightly different ways, is “do you love me?” As Peter answers in the affirmative, Jesus responds by stating actions which will allow Peter to show his love to God.
One way we can show our love to God is to keep his commands. “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). Jesus shows Peter another more specific way we can love God, and that is to love those whom God gives us to shepherd. In today’s passage Jesus uses the analogy of a shepherd three different times: “feed my lambs”, “take care of my sheep”, and “feed my sheep”.
Depending on your age and the stage of your athletic career, you may be getting more shepherding than giving it, but wherever you are at, God wants to transform you through his sanctifying power so that you can become a leader whom he can count on – one who will selflessly share your love with others.
Most importantly, you cannot count on your own strength, and your own character when you love others. To truly love a person in a way that they were designed to be loved, we need to love them with Christ’s supernatural power. “7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4: 7-8). Pray to God today and share your desire to be his hands, his mouth, and his feet here on this earth, and ask him to fill you with his Holy Spirit so you can fully love those whom he entrusts to you.