It’s not only around Valentine’s Day that we hear about love. Throughout the year we hear and/or use the word ‘love’ in any number of contexts.
“Love is a many splendored thing.” — “I love your new haircut!” — “I’d love to see them get into the playoffs.” — “I love Moose Tracks ice cream.” — “I love you, Mommy.” — “I’d love to see that guy get what’s coming to him!” — “I love You, Lord Jesus.”
The word ‘love’ is often over-used, abused, and misunderstood in the English language. Is it any wonder that our God chose the more precise verbiage of the Greek language to express the love we receive from Him and the love with which we respond to His love?
The Bible’s account of Simon Peter’s restoration by the Lord Jesus is an excellent example of God’s desire to help us understand the depth of His love and our great need for His love in our lives.
This narrative—see the entire episode in John chapter 21—actually begins in the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus’ arrest. Peter had boldly stated that he would never abandon nor deny his Savior, even to the point of death. “I won’t deny you, Lord. I’d never do such a thing! Even if all others turn away from you, I’ll remain true to You.”
Peter’s first-person ‘I’s’ were very near-sighted. He was looking to his own courage and strength to cling to Jesus. Our Lord warned Peter of the fate of the prideful, telling him that he would deny his Lord and Savior three times that very night.
Fast-forward past Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross and His victorious resurrection.
The disciples had seen and been with the resurrected Lord. By the sea they were gathered with Him for a third time since His return to life. We hear Jesus ask, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me…?” (John 21:15)
In the Greek language the word Jesus chose for ‘love’ was agape—a love which does not seek its own but is self-sacrificing; it is a love which gives, not waiting or worrying about getting something in return (That’s the kind of love Jesus has for us!).
Perhaps not liking where this conversation was going, Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” But Peter was not claiming a superior love for Jesus any longer. Instead, he used the Greek word philia, meaning a “brotherly love.”
The Lord Jesus then asked Peter a second time if he had unconditional love for Him. And Peter once again claimed only brotherly love.
When Jesus questioned Peter the third time, Peter was cut to the heart, not only because of the repeated question but because the Lord used Peter’s own word for love when He asked, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me [even with a brotherly love]?”
And In Our Own Hearts?
This time Peter responded with a heart-wrenching, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love you”—as much as to say that he knew the Lord could see into his heart and there discover that brotherly love was all Peter could claim!
When our Lord Jesus searches
our hearts, what kind of love does He find?
Even as redeemed children of God, do we have and demonstrate an all-consuming, passionate, selfless love for our Savior?
God requires our unconditional love in the ‘first and great’ commandment: “Jesus said to him,
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, with all your soul, and with
all your mind’” (Matthew 22:37).
How easy it is to discover that we don’t always have the great agape love for God or for our neighbor in our hearts. For example, how do we respond to those around us? Friends, family (beginning with our spouse), acquaintances, even total strangers? Is it our life’s goal to live for these people, always seeking their best interest, never asking anything in return?
What about toward our enemies? Do we have unconditional love for them as Jesus commands? (Matthew 5:44). If not, then how can we claim to love God, “for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20)
Thanks be to God that our salvation relies not on the love we have for Him, but rather on the love He has for us! “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [perfect payment] for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another”
(1 John 4:10-11).
Our loving God has not only shown us an example of pure love, but through the Savior’s work of redeeming us He has covered our sin and cold hard-heartedness with His love. At the same time He has given us His powerful Word through which the Holy Spirit is able to shape our stony hearts to more resemble His.
May the Lord fill our hearts with His love, enabling us to show and share this love with all people—beginning with our “loved ones” at home!