Hmm, it's been a while since I blogged. Before Christmas I was pretty busy with various things (away on a programming course, helping my dad work on his house...). But hopefully I'll be a bit more regular now. I've also just got broadband, so I can at last be online without blocking the phone line, not to mention the connection speed - woohoo!
So, to get down to the point...
Supposing a friend of yours is going on holiday, and he comes to you the day before he leaves and asks you to look after his mobile phone (for some reason he couldn't take it with him). You'd conclude fairly easily that he thinks his mobile phone to be quite an important possession. Suppose now that despite the fact that he's going to be away for a long time, he only makes this request, and he asks you with real earnestness. You'd have to revise the original estimate -- his mobile phone is very important to him. Suppose finally that he before making this simple request, he says, looking you directly in the eyes, "Do you love me?". "Er, yes", you reply, slightly embarrassed. "No, do you really love me?". "Yes, yes I do love you.". "Then please look after my mobile phone". By this point you would begin to think that his attitude was bordering on a Gollum-like obsession over his "precious" mobile phone.
But the conversation is now immediately recognisable as the one between Jesus and Peter after the resurrection. What Jesus asks Peter to look after is instead "my sheep", or even "my lambs" -- Jesus's people, the church. This is one of those wonderful truths that strikes you so acutely in two very different directions:
On the one hand, it takes your breath away how infinitely precious we who are His people are to Jesus Christ, the Might God, the Lord of Glory, the Creator of the ends of the earth. Unlike the man obsessed with his mobile phone, the Lord Jesus never has a warped perspective on things, nor is he prone to whims or expressing more he actually means, so for Him to talk in this way about us is just staggering, and an immense confort.
The flip side is, of course, how incredibly serious it is to offend one of these lambs in any way. Better to have a millstone hung around your neck and be thrown to the bottom of the sea than hurt those who are unimaginably treasured by the God who says "Vengeance is mine, I will repay". And it's not just actively hurting you must be wary of, but any form of negligence too (to the degree that God has given you responsibility for the other sheep). That is a lot to live up to.