Love is easy if it’s limited to affection. Whenever I used to look at my little daughter, those blue eyes and pigtails filled me with warmth. Plus I liked how she giggled. But then I had to learn what it meant to love her in a way that said love to her. I gave her rides on my back. I put on puppet shows at bedtime (Yes, doing all the different voices).
Then the day came when she wanted to play girls’ softball. I don’t have an athletic bone in my body. I spent all my high school years hanging around in the hallway, making smart remarks. I missed the whole athletic thing. But I got some books, learned some lingo, practiced with her, and coached her. I yelled at her a little bit. Went to games. Cheered for her.
Then it was time for piano. I don’t have a musical bone in my body either, unless it means listening to vintage Rush or old Springsteen stuff. Row, Row, Row Your Boat done poorly twenty-seven times in a row was a character builder for me. Still, I went to practice with her. Sat with her. Attended recitals. Did the whole video camera thing.
Then diving and tennis came along…You’re starting to get the picture.
When you love somebody, you get close enough to the things they love to touch them yourself. You even start to feel a bit of what they feel about it.
Well, Jesus has a mission He’s so passionate about, that He died for it. You might want to look into that, because you’re going to end up touching it.
Jesus fishes. He said to the disciples, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19). Being involved with Him will always somehow mean sharing the gospel with people, and catching their souls out of this perishing world. While we love Him, we’re in a boat helping Him hold the net.
You might not be any good at this at first, but give it some time. At some point, you’ll get the “bug” for it—the adrenaline of wondering, What will we catch today? While you’re living for Him, you never quite get away from the fishy smell of humanity and the thrill of somebody new out there being interested in Christ—even if it’s just a nibble on the end of your line.
Jesus farms. He told the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few—therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38). He plants and grows human souls unto spiritual maturity. He said to pray for people to join Him in this activity.
There’s a shortage of folks willing to get in and get their hands dirty working with the often troubling matrix of humanity. But like a gardener, you’ll start to feel the excitement when you see someone growing and starting to blossom. That’s the expectation of a field hand. You’re living for the harvest time, when the bushels of fruit will make it all worthwhile.
Jesus builds. He said, “I will build my church” (Mt. 16:18). He brings believers together and slowly constructs them into a dwelling place for God. He invited all the junior carpenters to join Him (1 Cor. 14:12, Eph. 4:16), meaning that if you really want to be with Him, it’s going to involve living a constructive life for the sake of others. And you’ve got to get used to the idea of working as a team.
That means lots of tools and skills coming together. Life on a construction site is messy but never boring. Everything that happens under the Foreman’s guidance—even the placement of doorstops—is purposeful. You might not have meant much to corporate America, but in the church you will definitely get a nail apron and a power tool.
Jesus feeds. He asked, “Peter do you love Me?” Peter said yes. Then Jesus said, “Feed my lambs”… “Tend my sheep”… “Feed my sheep.” This question and answer exchange happened three consecutive times (John 21:15-17). Why the repetition? I think among other reasons, it’s because we have a problem loving Christ in the context of what Christ loves to do. We see Him and His mission as being fundamentally separate.
Somewhere in my mind I think I can be for Him without caring what He’s for. It’s a serious disconnect when I can say, “I love you, Lord, it’s just I don’t care if you succeed or not. I mean, you’re God, I’m sure you’ll get there…oh, by the way, can you gimme some good feelings?”
Now here’s the rub. You can actually throw your whole life into the mission of Jesus without Jesus. Souls become a tally you keep. Building up the church becomes something about your ministry, your reputation, your success, your turf. Real service morphs into religious work. Insults are leveled at those who do poorly; suspicions and jealousy at those who do well. Abuse, bullying, and burnout start to occur, all in the name of concern for the Lord’s interests. If there’s no God in the burning bush, then the bush burns up.
Since we’re with Him, we’re inevitably going to be caught up in His mission. But hands that work had better stay full of Christ.