[do you LOVE me?]
My pastor has cast a challenge a week ago. It wasn’t a new challenge. In fact, this challenge is about 2,000 years old. The challenge of loving Him.
“Do you love me?”
John 21:15, 16, 17
That was the question Jesus asked of Simon Peter after Jesus’ resurrection. It is interesting to note the play on words here in John’s passage. The standard translations of the Bible do not really show it – they use just the word “love” in all three verses. In Greek, however, there are different verbs for love.
My pastor has mentioned that briefly but did not stop for too long. However, with my love for languages, that triggered more than a month of ponderings (for he mentioned it first at the Church board meeting).
The first time, Jesus uses the word αγάπη (agape). It denotes love which is deep and devoted. It is the word used in 1 Corinthians 13, the so-called Love Chapter.
“Do you love me, Simon?”
“Yes, Lord, You know that I love You”
The word Peter uses here is φιλία (philia), which stands for brotherly love or friendship.
Jesus asks for the second time…
“Do you love (agape) me, Simon, son of John?”
“Yes, Lord, You know that I love (philia) You”
Jesus still doesn’t get the answer to His question. So He asks one more time. For some reason, I imagine that Jesus sighed when He asked this last question.
“Simon, do you love (philia) me?”
I cannot imagine the thoughts of Peter at this moment. John says that Peter was hurt and saddened. Maybe in his mind’s eye he saw a flashback of not-so-long ago when he denied Jesus’ name for three times. Maybe he once again wished that he could do everything differently. I would.
“Lord, You know everything; You know that I love (philia) You.”
I have often wondered (and especially during these past couple of weeks)… what would I say? Would I be able to use the verb agape to answer Jesus? Or would I hide behind philia love? Or I would just look at the sand at my feet, not sure what to say… longing to say, “Yes! I love you!” and yet… *sigh*
Another point… Jesus wasn’t using that word (agape) just because. He knew perfectly well what that love could be like. He just went through the worst test ever just to prove that agape is possible. It is not easy, but it is not impossible. Jesus knew the implications. He knew that it hurts to love sometimes (or quite often, in fact).
But He was willing to love us. He knew the cost and yet He chose to pay it.
This morning I was walking to work and hummed to a song on my iPod, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I hummed, and then thought, “His faithfulness is great, but what about mine?”
What about my faithfulness? Do I love (agape – all-consuming love) him or I love (close friendship feeling) him?
I am weak, but He is strong. And so caring… and loving… I feel that sometimes I am about to explode with joy. Just because I know whose I am. Just because I know about His amazing love. It’s mind-boggling. Yet I have much to learn yet. I need to learn to Love. I still gets Ds and Cs in that area.
So the challenge continues…
“Zena, do you love Me?”