When I asked the Holy Spirit to show me how to guard against neglect, he led me to consider Peter’s drifting and his eventual renewal. This man denied Christ, even cursing and telling his accuser, “I don’t know him.”
What had happened? What had brought Peter to that point? It was pride, the result of self-righteous boasting. This disciple had said to himself and others, “I could never grow cold in my love for Jesus. I’ve reached a place in my faith where I don’t have to be warned. Others may drift, but I will die for my Lord.”
However, Peter forsook his calling after the crucifixion and returned to his old career, telling the others, “I’m going fishing.” What he really was saying was “I can’t handle this. I’d thought that I couldn’t fail, but nobody has ever failed God worse than I did. I just can’t face the struggle anymore.”
By that point, Peter had repented of his denial of Jesus. He had returned to the other disciples and prayed with them, but he was still a frayed man inside.
As Jesus waited for the disciples to return to shore, an issue remained unsettled in Peter’s life. It wasn’t enough that Peter was secure in his salvation. It wasn’t enough that he would fast and pray as any devoted believer would do. No, the issue that Christ wanted to address in Peter’s life was neglect in another form.
As they sat around the fire on shore, eating and fellowshipping, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know I do,” and Christ responded in turn, “Feed my sheep.” Note that Jesus didn’t remind him to watch and pray or to be diligent in reading God’s Word. Christ presumed those things had already been well taught. No, the instruction he gave Peter was “Feed my sheep.”
I believe that in that simple phrase, Jesus was instructing Peter on how to guard against neglect. He was saying, in essence, “I want you to forget about your failure and that you drifted from me. You’ve come back to me now, and I’ve forgiven and restored you. So it’s time to get your focus off of your doubts, failures and problems. The way to do that is by not neglecting my people and to minister to their needs. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”