Some of our best moments come after a good meal. Jesus addresses impetuous Peter, asking three times, “Do you love me?” Each time Peter declares his love, Jesus tells Peter to “feed my lambs,””tend my sheep,” and “feed my sheep.” the repeated questions frustrates Peter and hurts his feeling. Peter affirms love of Jesus and faithfulness to the task. But Jesus recognizes Peter’s youthful impetuosity and indicates that the journey to maturity will bring difficulties not even imagined by Peter. This is the paradox of discipleship: seeking the kingdom of God on earth, as Jesus taught, will lead to dangerous situations. Yet even this warning did not dissuade Jesus’ followers. The disciples and early apostles did suffer persecution, jail and death.
Charles Butler and his wife went as young missionaries to Panama. They faithfully taught, preached and shared the gospel in a culture not their own. They witnessed political strife in Central America in the latter half of the twentieth century, strife marked by brutal military dictatorships, disappeared clergy, paramilitary and rebel massacres of civilians. Peace and justice were in short supply. Upon retirement, Charles protested the role of the U.S. School of the Americas in training Latin American military personnel in counterinsurgency techniques. The School of the Americas trained hundreds of men who became agents of violence, intimidation and assassination in their own countries. Some became dictators.
Charles Butler ended up in federal prison as a consequence of his repeated public protest. I believe that Charles, like Peter, had “a belt fastened around” him, to lead him “where he did not want to go.” I believe that going to prison can be the price of answering the call of Jesus to “tend my sheep.”
Loving God, show us that where we do not want to go is often where we must go if we are faithful to the commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. Give us courage. Amen.