A Prayer to Love Who Jesus Loves
By Laura Bailey
“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.” - John 21:17 ESV
We just finished one of my favorite weeks of the year– Vacation Bible School! For most who serve, this week brings mixed emotions, as it is equally one of the most exhausting weeks of the year. But I can’t contain my excitement when I see children make new friendships, learn about the Bible, and for some, give their lives to Christ–easily compensates for losing my voice, irreversibly staining my clothing with art supplies, and increasing my need for a little concealer to cover the tiredness under my eyes.
I have read, studied, and meditated on God’s word for years. I have devoured commentaries and other Christian resources. I even committed to two years to obtain a degree in Bible studies from the seminary. But nothing pricks my heart more than some of the lessons we covered during Vacation Bible School, and this year was no different.
While Scripture was written for all people from various education levels, it still can be difficult to digest. Its principles are basic, yet, as adults, we tend to over-complicate or read more into the text instead of focusing on the universal Truth or how the verses point to God. For each lesson during Vacation Bible School, we widdled the passages down to one simple takeaway the children would hopefully easily remember.
Our “bottom line” on our third night was “love who Jesus loves.” Simple enough, right? As I prepared for the lesson, I learned that we love who Jesus loves by offering forgiveness when people hurt us. The Bible story came from John 21, telling how Jesus forgave Peter for denying Him and then charged Peter with sharing the Gospel and caring for God’s children.
I’d been wrestling with offering forgiveness to someone for a while, someone that, if I was honest, I didn’t like and didn’t love. However, as I read the story of Jesus forgiving Peter, I couldn’t help but see where I was falling short of God’s commandment to “love others as yourself” ( Matthew 22:26-40). My unwillingness to forgive hindered my ability to love them the way Jesus does, and more importantly me.
Do you, like me, sometimes suffer from this form of spiritual amnesia? Do we too often take the wrongs done against us too seriously but take our sinful slip-ups lightly?
We quickly forget the price Jesus paid for our forgiveness and reconciliation with God the Father. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we automatically forget, but over time, letting go of bitterness and resentment will help us move toward reconciliation and hopefully repair the relationship. As we go about our lives, may we remember this biblical truth: we can’t truly love others the way Jesus does until we learn to forgive like Jesus.
Heavenly Father, why do we find it so hard to love other people? Jesus gave us two commandments: to love God and love our neighbors, and far too often, we fall short of obeying either. Help us love all image bearers, both those who show us love and those who are openly rude, mean, or hurt us. Let us never forget that because of Your great love for Your children, You sent Your Son to die on the cross for our sins. It was because of our actions, or sinful rebellion, that a price needed to be paid for our forgiveness. In remembering this Truth, we can freely choose to forgive others. We are grateful that you offer forgiveness no matter how often we sin against you. If you can use someone who called himself the "chief of sinners," you can certainly use us for your glory and to bring people to Christ. We love you, Lord; thank you for all the many ways you have blessed us. Help us in our weakness.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/DKosig
Laura Bailey is a Bible teacher who challenges and encourages women to dive deep in the Scriptures, shift from an earthly to an eternal mindset, and filter life through the lens of God’s Word. She is the author of Beyond the Noise, and loves any opportunity to speak and teach women of all ages. She is a wife and momma to three young girls. Connect with her on her website, www.LauraRBailey.com
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Originally published Monday, 31 July 2023.