The year was 1986. His name was Danny. He was funny, cute, never once called me “four eyes” like some other mean boys who shall remain nameless, and I had it bad. I mustered up the courage to write Danny a “check yes or no” note to see if he LIKED me liked me, or if he just, you know, plain ol’ liked me. Days and eons passed with no reply, and my self-esteem plummeted. Finally, one day on the way to P.E., he passed me in the hallway, smiled and handed me a folded note. He’d drawn a heart on the front of it.
This story isn’t about a sappy, romantic outcome, because Danny moved away shortly thereafter, and we lost touch. (Back then, there was a per-minute, long-distance fee to phone another town, and we had to use these things called stamps to correspond in writing.) What it boils down to is a question that we all need to know the answer to: Do you LIKE me like me, or do you just like me? The question goes beyond tweenage crushes and cuts to the core of our hearts, because it’s something that Christ asks each of us.
Jesus once put Peter on the spot and asked him a similar question in John 21. You may remember Peter from the crucifixion story—he’s the one who denied knowing Jesus three times over the course of one night. Our story picks up after Jesus was raised from the dead, and he appeared on the shore where Peter and others were [unsuccessfully] fishing. They realized who he was and had a meal together—after Jesus helped them haul in a miraculous catch. During the course of their conversation, Jesus posed the question three times to Peter: “Do you love me?” It was his way of reinstating Peter for denying him.
Jesus isn’t going to force us to love him or drag us along as mindless followers, without a will of our own. He offers us a choice to love him passionately and to follow him wholeheartedly. The Bible is his love letter to us, filled with grace, mercy and an eternal promise. Will you check yes or no?