Before commissioning Peter to be a shepherd, Jesus asked three times “Do you love me? (see John 21:15-17). Henri Nouwen states this is a critical question for anyone who serves others in Christ’s name. Nouwen adds that it is a question that can allow anyone in Christian ministry to be “at the same time, irrelevant and truly self-confident.”
“The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus? Perhaps another way of putting the question would be: Do you know the incarnate God?
“In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, cares, reaches out and wants to heal. In that heart there is no suspicion, no vindictiveness, no resentment, and not a tinge of hatred. It is a heart that wants only to give love and receive love in response. It is a heart that suffers immensely because it sees the magnitude of human pain and the great resistance to trusting the heart of God who wants to offer consolation and hope.
“The Christian leader of the future is the one who truly knows the heart of God as it has become flesh, ‘a heart of flesh,’ in Jesus. Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, that every time fear, isolation, or despair begins to invade the human soul, this is not something that comes from God.”
(In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen, Crossroad Publishing, New York, 1989, pages 36-38)