Feed My Lambs
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast."
Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."
He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep."
He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go." (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, "Follow me."
Right off the bat, let me say that I'm not going to the exegete this passage or give a devotional or anything. I just don't want you to have that expectation and be disappointed. Rather, in my short blogging hiatus, I've been trying to think of a way in which to talk about my latest trip to South Africa without simply giving you a play-by-play of what I did while there. This particular Scripture passage will help me do that.
So, part of what normally happens when I go this time of year is I help my parents and whoever else is over there host a day camp for kids. The first year I went the camp I helped with was at a place called Refilwe. The past few years we've been at a school in the Mamelodi township in partnership with Berakah Educational Foundation. Now, at both Refilwe and in Mamelodi we are working with what most would definitely consider to be "the least of these," poverty stricken children. Being able to serve these kids each year is a highlight for me, to say the least. I expected nothing less this year.
Once I arrived and was sitting down with my parents to kinda hear their plan, we decided what I would do is work in the kitchen each day cooking the lunch for the kids except on the third day of the camp. The focus for that day was to be on "salvation," and it was decided that I'd teach the Bible study for everyone (they rotate through stations during the day, so I'd teach the same Bible study four or five different times). Now, I got more excited about this assignment than any I'd had in previous years. Why? Mainly because of the passage above.
You see, there's obviously a connection between loving Jesus and caring for His "sheep," His people, His children. This was most definitely true for Simon Peter and I believe it's true for us as well. Now, I don't think that means Jesus was calling Peter to be a chef or anything. However, when He said "feed my lambs," He was doing so have just previously literally prepared and offered His followers a breakfast. Now, at this year's camp, I was going to have the opportunity to "feed" the kids both physically and spiritually. What a responsibility! What an opportunity! What an honor and privilege!
However, this year's camp I was helping with wasn't at Refilwe or Mamelodi. This particular camp was being hosted at a school in Atteridgeville. The school is a private Christian school. Many of the kids who go there are scholarshipped, but many are not as well. Atteridgeville has some very poor areas and can be pretty rough, but it also has a large middle-class population. So, there were a lot of kids there who had cell phones and talked about their computers and some who had even been to the States and visited Disneyland. Also, since so many of them attend a Christian school. they had a lot of the "answers," at least to the basics.
Now, let me be perfectly open and honest with you for a moment. Since this was the case, I was kinda not as into it, I don't think. I mean it's one thing to spend all morning cooking for some kids who might not have another meal that day. It's quite another to do so for kids who get picky about what you give them and even whine when it's not something they really like. It's one thing to present the Gospel to someone who's never heard the name of Jesus before or has a very warped understanding of who He is. It's quite another to try to do so to a roomful of kids who are either bored listening because they've heard it all many times before or who won't let you hardly get a word out because they want to tell the story for you.
Or is it?
I found myself thinking that it's two different things, but I forced myself to acknowledge that it's not. Fixing lunch and teaching the Bible to the poor makes me feel good because I see their need so easily. Even the smallest morsels of food or knowledge that I have to offer are way more than they could dream of. So, it's easy for me to help them. And this makes me feel really good, like I'm really doing something and doing something big. But this year... well, this year was different. Their "need" wasn't as apparent. Doest that mean it wasn't there? No. Not at all. But it was different. I didn't feel as good because it wasn't as easy and what I had to offer didn't stretch as far. In fact, for me to make the same kind of impact actually required more from me, more giving, more compassion, more sacrifice. I was still feeding lambs, but it took more for me to do it, which was actually good.
I won't assume right now to speak for anyone else, though I think I could. Instead, I'll just speak for myself. I go on these trips every year, sometimes with Servant Life or Compassion, other times just because I want to. I go to serve, to do "God's work," to help the "least of these," and I'm right to do so. For sure. No doubt about it. And I'm pretty good at it... at the very least I "help" more than the average American. That's what I tell myself, anyway. But when it comes to helping those I don't perceive as "the least of these," whoever and wherever they might be (though I have to admit, most of those I don't see that way are the people I'm surrounded by all the time in my own country), I'm one of the worst. I don't serve them well at all. Sure, I can come up with excuses and even some legitimate reasons as to why... but that's all just hot air.
Jesus asks, "do you love me?"
I reply, "Lord, you know I love you."
Jesus says, "feed my sheep."
He doesn't put any qualifiers on it, for the rich or the poor.
Why do I?