As I write this, I’m anxiously awaiting my fate on multiple projects that I’ve submitted for consideration. I’ve spent hours upon hours studying, preparing, and alas “putting myself out there”. But for now, I lie in wait, along with my old friends: thoughts and silence. See, the potential for trouble arises when I start to let my thoughts “think” they have the driver’s seat. Then my thoughts start to form assumptions. Then those assumptions start to masquerade as truth. Then I base my feelings, actions, and worth based on that made-up truth. That quickly spirals into the belief that I have no purpose (or worse, my purpose is to mess up everyone else’s purpose). This may seem far-fetched and a little alarming, but I’m a complete expert at it.
Let me take a short pause here and give myself a bit of grace, though. Just a few years ago, I would be quite emotionally paralyzed and allowing my mind to be filled with all sorts of negative speculations. But still, I struggle with the lie that says if I’m not validated by my performance in one scenario, then I am of no good in any other scenario.
But here’s what I need to not only comprehend, but walk out daily: My mission for the kingdom of heaven is neither based on, nor justified by ANY other approval other than Jesus Christ himself. He IS the absolute final word of truth, who was there at the beginning of creation and knew the entire plan he had for every single one of us.
Does outside approval, especially from those on mission with us, encourage and propel us to keep going? Sure. But it can’t be what causes me to start or stop. The obedience to please my father in heaven and bravely advance must supersede my hesitation for approval from other sources. I’m certainly not implying we shouldn’t be respectful of other’s opinions or viewpoints. That’s what makes us think, analyze, and challenge ourselves to grow. Rather, the danger is when other’s opinions begin to call the shots instead of simply being added support along the journey.
Let’s take a brief look at John 21:15-17, where Jesus reinstates Peter after he had denied him before his death.
“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.” (ESV)
The Greek word for love that Jesus poses in his first two questions to Peter is “agape”, which means “to love in a moral sense”1. “Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is distinguished from the other types of love by its lofty moral nature and strong character”2.
(Simon) Peter questions why Jesus repeatedly asks about his love. And I believe Jesus is implying… “Because Peter… your love for me was, at one time, not stronger than others’ lesser, brotherly love for me; not stronger than your own desire for acceptance; not stronger than your fear of rejection. But Peter… do you NOW love me more than these? “
This rings such a loud (and familiar) bell to me.
I, myself, can hear Jesus saying, “Do you love me more than your need to prove yourself? Because you have nothing to prove to me. I know everything about you. I love you. Regardless. And I want to know if you love me in the same way, to the same extent. And I want to know if you’re willing to love others the same. I want to know… in the times that you’re rejected, will you still love me and my mission more? In the times that you’re forgotten, will you never turn away from the one who has never forgotten you… will you keep on with the selfless love for others that I’ve exemplified?”
I can hear him asking, “Do you love me enough to feed my sheep, when everything is not going your way and you harbor uncertainty about your own provision?”
Perhaps the whole idea of agape love is all about my willingness to love others unconditionally and nothing to do with what I receive from them in return. Or what I receive at all… be that recognition, praise, acknowledgment, etc.
In one of my most favorite Netflix series, “The Crown”, there is a very impactful quote that I want to strive to live by at all costs. In this particular episode, Princess Elizabeth is reading a letter of priceless advice from her grandmother, Queen Mary. She explains to Elizabeth that she will often face difficult decisions that will cause her individual desires to be at odds with her royal duty to her people. In these predicaments, Queen Mary writes… “The crown must always win”.
That’s it. Our crown must always win.
Jesus and his mission must always win.
Over fear and uncertainty, over my approval from others, over my desire for acceptance, and over my fear of rejection.
He has crowned me as a daughter of the king. And he alone validates my purpose. I must adjust my crown and keep going.
1. Strong, J. (2009). The New Strong’s Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible. Logos Bible [Mobile Application Software]. Bellingham, WA: Faithlife.
2. What is agape love? (2020, April 16). GotQuestions.org. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.gotquestions.org/agape-love.html