What Type of Love by Dale McCamish
What Type of Love Do You Give Jesus? By Dale McCamish
On the night of Jesus’s crucifixion and death, Peter abandoned, denied, and disowned Jesus three times. In John 21:15-19, Jesus performs spiritual surgery on Peter with a conversation of forgiveness. Jesus beautifully embodies grace upon grace as he forgives Peter’s sins, restores his position, and assigns him responsibilities.
When I taught on this lesson last week, I missed Peter’s response to Jesus. Jesus asks Peter three times, “Simon, do you love me?” And three times, Peter answers, “Yes!” The English translations do not quite do this scene justice, though. In the exchange, Peter tells Jesus he loves him three times, and every time he uses the term “phileo” for love.
The New Testament commands us to love (agape), throughout: agape God, agape each other, agape our spouses. Jesus even commands us to agape our enemies. Agape style love signifies the correct response and action based on intrinsic value. We should agape God because there is no god greater, He created all spiritual and physical beings, God speaks things into existence; nothing and no one is like my God. God deserves our love.
Likewise, the Scripture teaches that people are intrinsically valuable because they are made in the image of God. Sin in our lives scars and breaks us but God created us in His image so we remain valuable regardless of our mistakes. So, we should agape/love one another as part of responsibilities. We should treat everyone the same way we want to be treated, but we can do that without developing any deeper relationship or connection. But the New Testament never commands us to love using the phileo form of the Greek word.
Phileo love points us to a deeper connection. Phileo love shows up in those close relationships where one person adores another. And if you cherish time with a friend, you have probably moved beyond just “responsibility” to love, and have gained a more personal, “I want to,” kind of love. When you and your best friend exchange warm affections you have just used phileo love. Peter keeps responding to Jesus’s questions with this type of more affectionate love.
“Simon, do you agape me?” Jesus asks Peter. And Peter responds, “You know, Lord, that I phileo you.”
Peter’s feelings hurt when Jesus asks the third time: “Do you phileo me?” It’s like Jesus asks, “Do you really cherish me, Peter?”
And I think we need to ask ourselves this same question: Do we really cherish our Jesus?
I think Jesus called Peter’s attention to this type of love for a couple of reasons. First, Jesus forgave Peter. By asking him three times about his love, just like he had disowned Jesus three times; Jesus was letting Peter know that He was forgiven.
Second, Jesus assigned Peter a role of shepherd among the new Christians. Feed my lambs—the new Christ followers need strengthening. Jesus told Peter he had prayed for him that his faith would not fail during his trial and after the devil had sifted him, he would return and strengthen the disciples. Jesus begins to answer that prayer with this exchange, telling Peter, “It’s time to feed/help these new young Christians grow into maturity.”And Jesus repeats this exchange, two more times calling Peter to a deeper love with more and increasing responsibility.
And finally, Jesus warned Peter, that this is the type of love it would take to faithfully endure. In John 21:18, Jesus explains what kind of death Peter would experience—being led away with his hands tied and martyred for the faith. Those willing to die for Jesus truly reveal their phileo love. In Revelation 12:11, John repeats this victory mantra: “They triumphed over [the evil one] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. They weren’t in love with themselves; they were willing to die for Christ.”
Jesus calls Peter and all of his followers to this type of love. So…what type of love do you give to Jesus?