The word love has been butchered in our world. Maybe it’s because the true agape love (which could be translated charity) is not differentiated from affectionate, brotherly love (phileo/love). Our Bibles translate both words the same and we ascribe the same word love to a cheeseburger as we do to the Lord Jesus.
But, God distinguished between the 2. At the end of the book of John, Jesus sits down with Peter and asks him to confirm his love 3 times.
John 21:15b- “Simon, [son] of Jonas, dost thou agape/love me more than these?’ he saith to him, ‘Yes, Lord; thou hast known that I phileo/dearly love thee;’
Peter makes a distinction and Jesus recognizes it. But, Jesus never asked us to phileo/love Him. He asked us to agape/love Him! (John 14:15)
So Jesus persisted in v.16- “He saith to him again, a second time, ‘Simon, [son] of Jonas, dost thou agape/love me?’ he saith to him, ‘Yes, Lord; thou hast known that I phileo/dearly love thee;’
Deja vu…Hang in there, there is a really profound point that has been missed because of inadequate translation.
Finally in v.17- “He saith to him the third time, ‘Simon, [son] of Jonas, dost thou phileo/dearly love me?’ Peter was grieved that he said to him the third time, ‘Dost thou phileo/dearly love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, thou hast known all things; thou dost know that I phileo/dearly love thee.’
Jesus stopped asking Peter if he agape/loved Him because Jesus already knew that Peter was not there yet. He wanted Peter to recognize it; not to humiliate him, but because Peter needed to be honest with himself.
Peter hadn’t arrived at perfect love but, He was still chosen, called and forgiven.
v.19- “… and having said this, he saith to him, ‘Be following me.”
We haven’t arrived at perfect agape/love of God. If anyone thinks that they have, read 1 Cor. 13 and understand better what that love looks like.
However, Jesus told us in Luke 10:27- “He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
I like to think of this as more than a command but, a prophecy! Because Jesus is quoting from Deut.6:5,6- “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”
Hebrews quotes Old Testament prophecy when it describes the New Covenant…our covenant like this: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”
Moses told them that the command to love God shall be on their heart in Deuteronomy and Hebrews says that our covenant is that God has written those commands on our heart! It is an accomplished fact!
Don’t feel it? Neither do I most times. But, Paul confirmed that God’s agape/love is in our hearts in Romans 5:5-
“and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
2 Cor.3:3 takes the analogy even further- “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
That stony law that God gave Moses was a shadow/representation of our hearts. God, Himself engraved his law (LOVE) on our hearts when he gave us the Holy Spirit because Jesus fulfilled the whole thing in his flesh so that the entire law would be fulfilled in us who follow the Holy Spirit! (Rom.8:4)
Now that’s Good News!