He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” John 21:17a (NASB)
Today would have been my youngest daughter, Kara’s thirty-fifth birthday. The name Kara means Beloved. But I wonder if most people even know the meaning of the word love nowadays? I’m not sure that they do. Kids jump into bed with each other on the second date (if not the first) before they’ve had a chance to get to know each other, much less fall in love. Marriage as an institution has little meaning for them because most have never seen it as having a permanent meaning in the lives of their own parents and grandparents. So how can they recognize true love if they do encounter it?
The Greeks had three words for love: eros, phileo, and agape. Eros was the word for romantic love. It’s where we get the word erotic. You might think kids know all about this kind of love. But they don’t. Not really. What they know is a cheap substitute. It’s like someone replaced their copy of Romeo and Juliet with a used copy of Playboy Magazine. They know mechanics, but they have no concept of a true self-sacrificing passion that can last for a lifetime.
Maybe the concept of free love popularized in the sixties cheapened the commitment necessary to true love to such an extent that it effectively destroyed it. Or maybe the demolition began much earlier. In Victorian England, a façade of strict mores was maintained while sexuality was wildly exploited at an underground level. Perhaps it was this divorce of sexuality from the conversation of “proper” society that began the problem. We are sexual beings. God created us that way. Our suppression of that instinct led to our hiding it in the closet like a “dirty little secret” and our not teaching our children proper respect for themselves and their sexuality. But truthfully, the destruction goes all the way back to the fall. When Eve took that first bite of the fruit and offered it to her husband, they planted the seeds of the destruction of God’s greatest gift to us. Love.
Phileo means brotherly love. It’s friendship or familial love. I love you because of a relationship we have. It implies a mutuality of give and take. Such mutuality is a necessary part of any society. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of love. We do need each other. That interdependence makes for a successful society. Unfortunately, in today’s society we have a lot more takers than givers.
Agape love is the best kind of love. It’s God’s love. It’s a love that loves in spite of all flaws, a love that gives even when there is no mutuality or relationship, a love that never fails. Jesus is our best example of this love. His love for us led Him all the way to the cross to pay the debt for our sin. He redeemed us and gave us back the ability to truly love others with His love.
Three times after the resurrection, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you (agape) love me?” Three times Peter replied, “You know I (phileo) love you, Lord.” That would be like asking someone “Do you love me?” and them answering, “You know I like you.” Some pastors preach that this was Peter affirming his love for Christ three time after his denial three times. If so, Christ must have been sorely disappointed. I think it might have been more Peter’s recognition that without the Holy Spirit, Godly love is impossible. We simply aren’t capable of it. But notice, Christ never condemned Peter for his answer. He simply accepted it and gave Peter an assignment. Feed His sheep. But after Pentecost, Peter is a prime example of this kind of love. Tradition has it that he was crucified upside down after watching his own wife boiled in oil for their love for Christ. He proved his agape love with the ultimate price. Would we do the same?
Taboo Tuesday Question of the Day: What kind of love do you have for others?
P.S. COULD YOU USE AN EXTRA $150 FOR CHRISTMAS? I’m so excited to announce that next week, my blog will be kicking off an Advent blog tour for HopeSprings authors and we’ve chipped in for a giveaway of a $150 gift certificate as well as each blogger will be giving away copies of his/her book. All you have to do is go to our blogs and comment. Each comment earns an entry into our random drawing.