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Archive for October, 2011

John 21:15 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.”

I’ve always been fascinated by the three calls of Jesus to Peter in persuading the former fisherman to pastor God’s people. Recently we received great ministry on this subject. And as I listened to God’s Word ministering to my heart, something new dawned upon me—what Jesus was asking of Peter must have been a difficult transition to make. I’ve often wondered why the Lord repeated the request three times. Was the man known as “the rock” strong-headed, needing the thrice repetition? It never dawned upon me that Peter was facing an occupational challenge—let me explain.

By trade Peter was a fisherman. From the Gospels we understand the man was married, having an unhealthy mother-in-law living with him and was responsible for his own home. In other words, Peter had cares of life and was mastering the call of responsibility to his obligations. No doubt he felt the weight of making ends meet; a day of unsuccessful fishing meant the proverbial less food on the table.

At the same time Peter was witnessing the ministry of Jesus. Since both men were living in Capernaum, Peter was well aware of the Savior and no doubt was already a disciple, learning and developing from Christ’s ministry. And then on one occasion, after a day of exceptionally poor fishing, Jesus used Peter’s boat to speak to the people while the fishermen mended nets and cleaned up. Jesus, upon finishing His message, requested Peter launch again into the deep for a renewed attempt at netting fish. After hesitantly answering, the expert fisherman complies and, to his surprise, is blessed with a catch beyond imagination—surely enough to provide resources for a long time.

And then came the call from Jesus to full-time work, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” After such a large catch, Peter was financially able to follow in the capacity the Savior requested. The man’s new mission in life was similar in occupation—“I will make you fishers of men!” Peter was familiar with that aspect. He knew how to fish and He could catch men by using concepts from the tools of the trade he was familiar with. Maybe that’s why Jesus used the occupation analogy to call Peter.

But now the risen Savior was asking something new, something Peter was skeptical about—tending sheep. He was not a shepherd; he was never trained to pasture any animal, much less feed them properly. Peter had absolutely no reference point for undertaking this new enterprise of caring for souls. “Fishing for men” he could do. He knew that trade. In fact, the risen Christ had just found him fishing again. But this tending of sheep thing—“feed my lambs” was a new occupational challenge. No wonder Jesus repeated the call three times for the former fisherman. Peter had to jump from fisherman to shepherd.

For any person needing to be retrained in a new occupation, the event is frighteningly filled with much insecurity. There is doubt and frustration, and questions of whether the future will work out. Peter faced his new enterprise by being cast upon the Savior for help. For the Lord to lead in new directions we may need repetitive reassurances—which He is more than willing to provide. However, it all settles into this one little statement for finding grace to help—Jesus asks, “do you love me…?” If the answer is yes, then in any change the Lord may ask of us we can find assistance for that occupational challenge.

J. Robert Hanson

Image provided by David Niblack and available at http://imagebase.davidniblack.com/main.php

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“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’” 1 Peter 3:9-12 (ESV)

From what planet did the man writing these verses come from? Equal retaliation for an evil deed is a must on everyone’s agenda! Eye for eye, tooth for tooth—right? Isn’t that what the good book teaches? History gives countless stories of deep animosities, sometimes stretched over generations, of bigotry and hatred. Occasionally cultures have warred for so long that the original violation is lost to proverbial Father-Time.

Recently I’ve been alarmed by the countless modern cultural icons pressing vengeance as a remedy for evil. While every malevolent deed must be judged and punished, it’s no longer satisfying enough to let government deal with penalization. Maybe it’s a lack of trust as laws have become too lenient, or fear that a wrong will go unanswered—whatever the justification, personal revenge has sought a place in modern western civilization. It’s become a rarity to watch a TV show where a main character does not have some personal vendetta to execute upon some horrible dastardly villain—the system is broken. I’m not justifying wickedness mind you; it’s just that accepting vigilantism as de facto places a danger upon culture. Each man becomes a god executing their own form of justice upon their nemesis—it’s a wild-west mentality deposing the rule of law.

When avenging an evil (achieving justice) becomes revenge (which seems to find a home from hatred), there are not many steps until a soul is brought to seeking vengeance (the hot desire for retribution). Whiles all three highlighted words refer to “getting even” for having injured you or yours, the difference appears to be the degree in which you allow self to be consumed with anger over evil done against you. Retribution becomes a consuming fire controlling the mind of a vindictive individual. Sleep, sound sleep is no longer available as the weight of reprisal bears upon a psyche. Truly, retribution is a dark night of the soul. More and more our modern western society is falling prey to the barbarianism of personal vengeance. This happens in every society that slips away from the truth of God who says, “Vengeance is Mine.”

If there’s to be an end to allowing the passion of retribution and its consuming fire from commanding a soul, a return to believing that “God is against all those who do evil” is necessary. He will execute punishment upon the wicked! But this belief is difficult to accomplish if you don’t believe in God in the first place. The anger deeply embedded in vengeance can only eat at the soul. However, the command in 1 Peter 3 is more than just letting go of anger, it’s the actual expectation of not repaying evil for evil. In fact, Peter is so radical with his appeal that he includes the action of blessing the one who deserves reviling—crazy thought. Oh, I know the radio talk show hosts and intellectuals of western culture will have a hissy over this advice. “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” I hear them crying—until we’re all blind and toothless! This type of vigilantism is the only direction you can go when you refuse to believe in a God who is just and righteous—you end up with a fiery anger consuming your life.

But to those choosing a belief that the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and the promise of God’s ears being open to their prayer; preservation is extended. And the dominate characteristic of such an individual—they have peace! The answer: Let him seek peace and pursue it.

J. Robert Hanson

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