“Do you love Me…?” John 21:15
The former minister of Gilcomston South Church of Scotland in Aberdeen, William Still, once wrote his congregation these words, “There are still a number on our Roll (I speak with sympathetic understanding) who do not yet see what all the religious talk is all about… But you must allow me to say gently that you are missing the best in life. If you loved Jesus Christ as I and many members of Gilcomston love Him, you would be prepared almost to crawl to Church to worship Him. And I want to say in view of God’s blessing upon Gilcomston, and of the wonderful changes that God is working in the lives of those who attend there, no member who is free and able has a shadow of an excuse for not attending regularly.”
Sound too forthright? Too harsh? I wonder if Pastor Still hasn’t hit on the real issue behind faithful attendance at worship on the Lord’s Day. Look at what he says, “If you loved Jesus Christ…?” This is exactly what Jesus was asking Peter, “Do you love Me…?” Isn’t that the fundamental issue, love for Christ?
Often I have appealed to absent church members by pointing out their continual and regular need for spiritual feeding on the “Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:15-17). And it’s true that it is God’s intention to use His Word as a means of not only bringing us into the kingdom, but for preserving us in the kingdom, with a view towards bringing us into conformity to Jesus Christ. He accomplishes this by placing us under the regular scrutiny of His Word which is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
But if there’s no real love for Christ, then God’s Word will only seem oppressive and difficult to take in. In the sixth chapter of John, we read that after one of Christ’s teachings, many of His disciples, “when they heard this, said ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’” (verse 60). They refused however, to listen to the answer to their own question, and finally “many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (verse 66). Does that describe you? Are you using the excuse of God’s Word being too difficult as a cover-up for your own lack of love for Christ, which is shown by irregular attendance at worship? When Jesus asked if Peter also wanted to go away, he responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (verse 68).
At other times I have appealed to church members by reminding them of their covenantal obligation to their fellow church members. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts Christians to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:24-25). Is it not God’s intention to have the environment of the Church as a place where the fruits of the Holy Spirit are exercised towards one another? It’s in the context of the corporate church that the Apostle Paul instructed Christians to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
But if there’s no real love for Christ, then meeting together regularly with Christ’s people will seem bothersome and annoying. John addressed this in his first letter where he wrote, “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now… he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (2:9, 11). Sometimes professors of Christ will stay away from worship because of a problem with other Christians in the church. Is that you? If we truly love Christ, are we not to love our brother in Christ and walk “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3)?
The question asked of Peter so long ago still stands, “Do you love Me…?” Let your answer be the same that was given by Peter, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Then let it demonstrated by faithful service to your Lord in devoted worship. William Still ended his letter by saying, “Come on now, make a start - that’s the hardest battle. Once you’ve made a beginning I am sure you will want to continue. That God may bless you and help you is my continual prayer.”
“Do you love Me…?” John 21:15