Read- John 21 ESV
It was a defining moment in my life.
Little did I know the magnitude of one little word, that a definition would transform my life and faith like nothing else had, apart from salvation.
I can remember in my late twenties struggling with the “greatest commandment”, identified by Jesus Himself as the most important priority of our faith – Love God and others.
Complying with this goal from Matthew 22:37-40 seemed simple enough at first, but when I actually started putting forth effort toward this endeavor, it proved IMPOSSIBLE!
Who on earth can love God like that?! With ALL our heart, soul, mind and strength? Who are we kidding? And for that matter, who can love others like themselves?!
Time didn’t seem to help in this goal, nor did effort. The longer and harder I tried, the more I seemed to fail in what was MOST important.
It seemed hopeless!
But then I came across John 21 and the little definition that made ALL THE DIFFERENCE!
Jesus is challenging Peter after his epic failure of denying Christ. Peter had prided himself that he loved Jesus the most but Jesus was wanting him to understand a profound truth- he did not have it in his ability to love Christ like he thought OR should. It just wasn’t going to happen.
As I read this passage in John 21, it seemed ridiculous that Jesus kept asking the same question over and over. I knew there had to be more to this than redundancy so I looked up the definitions of the specific words being used. In essence, Jesus is asking Peter if he loves (agapeo) Him and Peter is answering in agreement but with a different word for love (phileo).
These two Greek words have drastically different definitions. Agapeo love is a divine love that is more of an act of the will than a mere emotion. It means to love others in their best interest. Sacrificial and unselfish in nature, it is a love that originates from God and is the love He has for us and expects us to have for Him and others.
While phileo love is more about friendly affection based upon common interests. It isn’t enduring or unselfish like agape love.
As Christ kept asking Peter if he loved Him, Peter kept responding with a far less committed “love”. These questions were challenging him to a greater level of commitment than Peter’s self-will could produce. Jesus is the embodiment of love itself, was calling Peter personally, specifically, to the greatest love of a lifetime.
That explains why Peter wasn’t able to love Jesus enough that night to keep from betraying Him. He wasn’t willing to risk his own safety at that level of phileo love.
It also explains why I couldn’t love God and others as expected. My selfish nature kept rising to the surface and sabotaging my efforts to make sacrifices. I was only able to love as long as I felt like loving. As soon as it was costly or aggravating, I was all out the motivation I needed to persevere.
So how do we attain this love that is required of us yet is beyond our ability to produce?
Doing a word search on agapeo love, I came across Romans 5:5.
…and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
This was the missing piece to the puzzle about loving God and others! If the level of love I am supposed to have isn’t in me to begin with, but only from and through God to exercise, then He would need to supply it for me!
I knew Jesus was calling ME by name, just as He had done Peter.
“Gretchen, do you agapeo me?”
It was with equal conviction and humility that I realized, just as Peter had, the devastating answer.
Now, each morning, I come to Christ asking for His love to be poured into my heart in order to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others as myself. He generously supplies what only He can!
When Love calls your name, He calls you with the power and ability to supply it!
Dear Lord, please pour your love into my heart, with the power of the Holy Spirit so that I can love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others as myself. Help me to remember that You are the true source of love and all I have to do is ask.