Christian Words, Part Three – Love

Love – unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) : brotherly concern for others.
strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties. attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers. Affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests.

This is going to be a difficult one, a blog post on the one word no man can truly define perfectly. While we have the Webster’s definition above, it’s one of those words that mean different things depending on how it used. The bible shows us this in the following passage.

“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
John 21:15-19

Jesus uses the phrase “Do you love me?” three times. Because our Bible is in English, it misses that the passage is actually using two different words for love in this passage – phileo and agape. The word Jesus uses is actually agape love, which is love that is selfless, a love where you would be willing to give your life for another. Peter’s answer, is that yes, he love Jesus, but he used the word phileo, which is the love of friendship. This passage is so important in our understanding of love. Jesus was asking Peter if He love Him so much, that he would give his life for Jesus.

The meaning of this passage is interpreted different ways by different people. Many believe this passage to be the mirror image of Peter denying Jesus three times later when he was being crucified. However, the bottom line here is that this is Jesus explaining to Peter, and to us, what true love is all about. Jesus is trying to tell us that true love is a love so great, that you would deny your selfish desires, even to the point of giving up your own life, for that of another. The interesting thing here is that although Jesus is asking Peter if He loves Him in that way, He is not asking Peter to give up his life for a stranger. Contrast that with the much greater love of Jesus, who gave His life for all of us. I would say this is pretty humbling don’t you?

When we discuss the purest form of love, the greatest love possible, it has to be the love of God for His creation. It is a love we cannot fully comprehend. It is the love exhibited by Jesus at the cross. I have discussed this before, but it is the love of a father choosing to sacrifice the life of His only son, so that we may be saved. That is true selfless love – agape love.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
–John 15:13

This is a more direct explanation of the love Jesus values most. We are plainly told that the greatest love one can have is to lay down our very lives for someone we love. That is precisely what He did for us. God loved us so much, He knew we were in need of a Savior. It was the best way for us to understand His love for us. Through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are taught how to love our God, and how to love each other. Through this lesson, we are taught to humble ourselves, deny our selfish desires, take up our own cross daily, and show the same type of love Jesus showed for us.

In the next blog post, I will be talking about grace. However, it is fitting to end this post with this all powerful word. It is the grace of God, that grants us a love we do not deserve, and we can only receive through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ. As such he is our redeemer, bringing us back to in favor of the creator. Our sins draw us away from God. Yet God so loved us, that He grants us the gift of salvation – because of this unending grace that we should all be grateful for. It is that love that God gives to us that we are to show to those around us. We love because He loved us first.

That my friends, is true love – agape.