Friday, September 7, 2012

How do you love me?

Read: John 21:1-19

We return today to the beach where Jesus ate with His disciples.

Note that there are 4 Greek words for love:
(1) Eros - romantic love, not found in the New Testament.

(2) Storge - natural affection, like a parent has for their child. 

(3) Agape - sacrificial love, consuming, unconditional love. This is the love of John 3:16, 1 Corinthians, etc.   Often described as a godly love, this is an error. It is also the sinful love for the world in 2 Timothy 4:10. It is the kind of love we ought to have for our enemies - not based in their worthiness, but unconditional. It is the love for God commanded in Mark 12:30. This is also the love Jesus had for the apostle John (the disciple whom Jesus loved). 

(4) Phileo - brotherly love, a strong liking (as in Philadelphia - the city of brotherly love). This world comes form the word philos, which means friend. God is said to have a phileo love for His people in Revelation 3:19. We are also commanded to have a phileo love for God in 1 Corinthians 16:22.

Studying the Greek language, it is apparent that phileo means love in the sense that I love chocolate chip cookies or the color blue. It refers to an affection. If we take Peter's conversation with Jesus and translate agape as love and phileo as like, this is what we get:

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" 
He *said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I like You." 
He *said to him, "Tend My lambs." He *said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" 
He *said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I like You." 
He *said to him, "Shepherd My sheep." He *said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you like Me?" 
Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you like Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I like You." 
Jesus *said to him, "Tend My sheep. "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He *said to him, "Follow Me!"
- John 21:15-19, NASB  (my edits in color)

Place yourself in Peter's shoes. You denied your Lord 3 times, after bragging about your love. He asks if you love Him more than the others do, and you say yes, you have a strong liking for him. Again he asks, and again you answer the same way. The third time, He asks if you like him strongly, and you realize what has gone wrong. 

Peter, it seems, really believed that the phileo love he felt for Jesus was better than an agape love. He felt that his fondness for his master was something great. In one sense it was, as we are to phileo God. But God deserves both. We must love Him unconditionally and steadfastly (agape) and love Him for who He is and what He has done (phileo). It is phileo love that made Peter jump out of the boat when he saw Jesus on the beach, but it was agape love that placed Isaac on the altar. As Baptists, we usually want to have just an agape love. We believe a steadfast love for God is the end-all, but we are wrong. God demands the passion that phileo love brings and the steadiness of agape love.

May God help us to love Him completely and without reservation - in every way. If we lack phileo, let us look to the cross and see all that Jesus did for us. If we lack agape, let us realize that we must grow in maturity, or risk this:

Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
Matthew 26:74-75 KJV

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