I love asking people about their favorite things.
Something like, if you could only have one more dessert before you die, what would you pick?
Or, what are three things that would make for an “ideal day”?
Or, if you’re going for more of a Sunday School vibe, who is your favorite person in the Bible?
And no you can’t say Jesus in response to this question, because he’s all of our favorite, obviously. He clearly wins, so that’s just cheating.
If I were to answer this question, I do have several top contenders. But, if you’re really telling me I can only pick one, it’s going to be Peter for me, every time.
In the pre-resurrection Peter I see so much of myself: quick with an answer, but a not-so-great track record when it comes to following through with my actions. Peter has so much heart, but he’s also regularly putting his foot in his mouth. Judgment is just as quick to bubble to the surface as his passion, and learning to submit seems to take him a minute.
And while I identify with pre-resurrection Peter, my heart is inspired by the glimpses we see of Peter after he has fully realized that this whole Messiah thing is like, for real for real.
I love how the apostle John gives us a peek at the shift in Peter’s attitude in Chapter 21 of his gospel. Several months ago, I found myself in this chapter, reading about Jesus appearing to his disciples on the beach while they’re out fishing. When Peter realizes it’s Jesus, he jumps out of the boat with abandon, his focus entirely on getting as quickly as possible to his recently-murdered-but-come-back-to-life best friend, master, and God.
And as I read this passage, with the idea of community bouncing around in the back of my brain as it always seems to be doing, I thought about what a beautiful picture this could be of community, as well. So in that moment, I scribbled in my notes – give me a jump-out-of-the-boat kind of heart for you and your sheep, Jesus.
And today, as I sat down to write to you, my friend, about what it means to pursue people in our friendships, I had every intention of writing about this passage. I thought it could be a prayer over our hearts to “jump out of the boat” for the people God puts in our paths with intentional action directed toward growing relationships.
But after about an hour of frustratedly hitting my backspace key and feeling stuck, I decided to try listening to the nagging feeling in my gut (read: Holy Spirit). Perhaps, like Peter did for so many days that he walked on earth with Jesus, I was missing the point here.
And when I took an honest look at where I was feeling stuck, I realized the problem with the message I was trying to weave: Peter doesn’t jump out of the boat for people. He jumps for Jesus.
My prayer can’t be for God to give me a jump-out-of-the-boat kind of heart for people if I haven’t first prayed that for my relationship with him.
Now, I don’t think my scribbled note from all those months ago was entirely wrong, but I share my writing process with you today because I think I was making a mistake in that moment that can trip many of us up when it comes to community. And I think it’s worth addressing as we embark on this series about being community-minded.
As we pursue community, we often think, I want to connect with people as a way to connect with God. And it’s true; people can certainly help us draw closer to Jesus. I do think that’s one of the primary purposes behind community, in fact.
But what has happened to me before, and maybe to you too, is that we focus so much on connecting with people that we forget the real point of community is to connect with God. We pour all our efforts into connecting with people and “being involved”…but it’s all really just to feed our egos and make us feel better about our lives, rather than expecting and allowing those relationships to bring us closer to Jesus.
And sometimes I wonder if thinking of community that way is just like driving through a bog and being shocked when the four wheeler gets stuck. What if, instead, we approached from a different path? Instead of viewing community as an avenue to grow closer to God, what if we thought of community more as the overflow and out-pouring of our relationship with God?
I don’t think the former approach is wrong, but this passage about Peter’s relationship with Jesus and how that channels into his commissioning to lead the newborn Church makes me wonder if this reframed mindset toward community might be more helpful.
After Peter’s little swim and a beach breakfast with Jesus (#goals), Jesus commissions Peter to community when he tells him three times to care for his “sheep,” the church. As they looked out onto the water that Peter had recently leapt into to get to Jesus, I imagine Jesus might’ve said to Peter, Remember how you jumped out of the boat to get to me? That’s what I want you to do for my sheep.
But the order, it matters. I have to jump out of the boat to be with Jesus before he can commission me to feed his sheep. I have to swim toward him as my source, the one for whom I can’t help but dive out of my lonely boat to get to, in order to be close enough to hear him whisper my assignment.
Maybe it’s the grumpy girl at work who you feel called to love in practical ways even though she seems uncrackable.
Maybe it’s the small group you’ve been feeling a pull to join or start, but just staying home feels a lot easier and safer.
Maybe it’s the girl sitting alone at church that you just. keep. noticing.
I don’t know what your community assignment is, but I know we’ll never be able to hear it if we don’t first jump out of that lonely boat to swim with all our might toward Jesus, if we aren’t walking on the beach with him, hanging on his every last word.
Like Peter, let’s swim toward Jesus first, allowing him to minister to our community-starved hearts, and then commission us to pursue others out of the abundance he has given. I can pray for a jump-out-of-the-boat kind of heart for people, but only when I have allowed Jesus to give me that kind of a heart for him first.
Feed my sheep, yes. But first, you follow me.
As we pursue community over the coming months, I hope you will embrace the call to community with me, learning and growing in this area of our lives with the goal of bringing glory to God. But as we do, let’s never forget that following Jesus comes first. Community is about people, yes. But first, it’s about you and the Lord.
Because only Jesus is worth jumping out of the boat for, and he’s the only one who can fill our hearts in the way we truly long for. The very best friend, small group, and church community will never truly fill that void. But once we swim to Jesus as our source for all our endeavors when it comes to community, then we can begin to experience the ways in which communing with Jesus can incite our selfish hearts to pursue others in his name and for his glory.
Today may our prayer be, give me a jump-out-of-the-boat kind of heart for you, Lord Jesus, and then for your sheep.
Love ya, friend.
Your Sister, Kimber
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