Sunday, January 12, 2014

Lovest Thou Me, More Than These?

We are all familiar with the exchange that Peter had with the resurrected Savior on the Shore were Peter had been fishing. After the Savior was crucified, Peter and several of the other disciples went fishing. They fished all night without catching anything. A man standing on the shore called to them and asked if they had caught anything. They called back that they had not so the man told them to cast their nets on the right side and they will find some. They did and their nets were so full they could not draw the nets in. They then recognized the man was Jesus Christ and Peter dove in and swam to the shore to meet him where the following exchange happened:

15 ¶So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon,son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (Johm 21:15-17)

I wrote about this before from the perspective of developing our faith (July 28, 2013 “Pathways to Faith). This time I would like to discuss it from the perspective of the sheep and the lambs and what the Savior expects us to do when he says that we should feed them.

First – who are the sheep and the lambs the Savior was referring to? Elder Ben Banks in a conference address given October 1999 spoke of the lambs and the sheep:

“Twas a sheep not a lamb that strayed away
In the parable Jesus told,
A grown-up sheep that strayed away
From the ninety and nine in the fold.
And why for the sheep should we seek
And earnestly hope and pray?
Because there is danger when sheep go wrong;
They lead the lambs astray.
Lambs will follow the sheep, you know,
Wherever the sheep may stray.
When sheep go wrong, it won’t take long
Til the lambs are as wrong as they.
And so with the sheep we earnestly plead
For the sake of the lambs today,
For when sheep are lost, what a terrible cost
The lambs will have to pay!

In this example the sheep are mature grown individuals that have wandered and the lambs are those that are young (or young in the gospel) and follow the example of their friends or parents as they wander from gospel paths and are lost as well. The sheep and lambs do not only refer to those who have wandered or are lost. The Savior often spoke of his sheep. His sheep were his followers and the shepherds were their priesthood leaders. Christ spoke of the true shepherd’s feeling for his sheep when he said:

11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15)

What are we willing to do for the Lord’s sheep and lambs, not just those that are lost but also for those that are faithful? President James E. Faust spoke of the responsibility of priesthood leaders in the Lord’s church. He was speaking in the April 1995 General Conference soon after being sustained as the second counselor in the First Presidency, he said:

Tonight I would like to speak to the priesthood of God in their capacity as the Lord’s shepherds. Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated: “Anyone serving in any capacity in the Church in which he is responsible for the spiritual or temporal well-being of any of the Lord’s children is a shepherd to those sheep. The Lord holds his shepherds accountable for the safety [meaning the salvation] of his sheep.”  The bearers of the priesthood have this great responsibility, whether it is father, grandfather, home teacher, elders quorum president, bishop, stake president, or other Church calling. (“Responsibility of Shepherds”, James E. Faust, General Conference, April 1995).

He was speaking in the priesthood session of conference when he said that it was their priesthood duty. He could have included the mothers, grandmothers, visiting teachers, Relief Society Presidents, Young Women Presidents and Primary Presidents as well because no matter who we are, we have a responsibility to care for others. The Lord made that clear when he taught of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of the importance of shepherding the Lord’s flock, when he said:

“There are so many young people who wander aimlessly and walk the tragic trail of drugs, gangs, immorality, and the whole brood of ills that accompany these things. There are widows who long for friendly voices and that spirit of anxious concern which speaks of love. There are those who were once warm in the faith, but whose faith has grown cold. Many of them wish to come back but do not know quite how to do it. They need friendly hands reaching out to them. With a little effort, many of them can be brought back to feast again at the table of the Lord.
“My brethren and sisters, I would hope, I would pray, that each of us … would resolve to seek those who need help, who are in desperate and difficult circumstances, and lift them in the spirit of love into the embrace of the Church, where strong hands and loving hearts will warm them, comfort them, sustain them, and put them on the way of happy and productive lives” (“Reach with a Rescuing Hand,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 86).

Are we willing to sacrifice our time to help our family, our neighbors, co-workers or strangers that need our help? President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, gave another example of what a true shepherd is in a 1984 General Conference talk. In his parable he talked of a ward that was planning a picnic for the ward. The day came for the picnic and the weather was great, the food looked good and the tables all set beautifully. Just as they were about to begin, a noisy car came into the grounds and stopped with smoke pouring out of the engine. Several hungry dirty children piled out of the car and the mother brought a few leftovers to a nearby table. Then one of the children sees the table full of delicious food and comes over to stare at it. Elder Packer said that there were at least three possibilities that the ward members could take:

“First, you could insist the intruders keep their children quiet while we have the blessing. Thereafter we ignore them. After all, we reserved the place.
“I doubt that you would do that. Could you choke down a feast before hungry children? Surely we are better than that! That is not the answer.
“The next choice. There is that extra table. And we do have too much of some things. We could take a little of this and a little of that and lure the little children back to their own table. Then we could enjoy our feast without interruption. After all, we earned what we have. Did we not “obtain it by [our own] industry,” as the Book of Mormon says? (See Alma 4:6.)

“I hope you would not do that. There is a better answer. You already know what it is.
“We should go out to them and invite them to come and join us. You could slide that way, and I could slide this way, and the little girl could sit between us. They could all fit in somewhere to share our feast. Afterward, we will fix their car and provide something for their journey.
“Could there be more pure enjoyment than seeing how much we could get those hungry children to eat? Could there be more satisfaction than to interrupt our festivities to help our mechanic fix their car?” (“Feed My Sheep”, Boyd K. Packer, General Conference, April 1984)
Who are the Lord’s shepherds? We should not sit back and say that the shepherds are the priesthood leaders and it is their responsibility to watch over the flock. As a disciple of Jesus Christ I am one of his shepherds, we all are. We all must be willing to share the burden of shepherding the flock. As parents, neighbors and family members we must watch for those who are in need of our help. We should pray to know who we can serve today and then when we see someone at home, work, in the store wherever it may be we should ask: “Is this the person that needs my help?” and then we must be willing to use our talents, time and means to provide the help they need, even to the point of binding up their wounds, providing the care they need and paying the “in-keeper” for their care and promising to come back and reimburse them for whatever they need. If we are willing to do this and more, then we are truly the Lord’s Shepherds and can answer in the affirmative when the Lord asks us: “Lovest thou me, more than these”.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

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