John 21:15-17: So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, 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, “Tend My sheep.
Peter is a very interesting character in the Bible. One that we can learn a lot from, and possibly see ourselves in most of His actions. However, today’s blog is not about Peter, it’s about Love. More specifically, agape love.
From the above verse, Jesus asks Peter whether he loves Him or not. Not once, but three times. Why? There are a number of the reasons as to why Jesus Christ was doing this. However; for the purposes of this article, we shall be focusing on one aspect.
When Jesus asked the question, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”, He (Jesus Christ) was referring to the agape type of love. Agape, is a Greek term which when translated means, unconditional love. Yet, when Peter answered Jesus Christ those three times, he (Peter) was referring to the Phileo type of love. Phileo is a Greek term, which when translated, stands for a brotherly type of love.
Jesus Christ repeated the question three times, trying to emphasize the need and importance of agape love; unconditional love. Given the future role that Peter had in spreading the Good news of Salvation, Jesus Christ knew how important it was for Peter to abide in Jesus Christ. With love, comes obedience.
John 14:15: If you love Me, you will keep My commandments
As Christians, we play a role in the Church of God as well. In order to fulfill them, we need to have the kind of love that God has for everyone; unconditional love. We can’t give something that we don’t have.
Matthew 22:37-39: And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Notice, the order of the commandments given to us by Jesus Christ. First, we are to love God unconditionally, and secondly, we are to love others. Only by abiding in God and loving Him unconditionally, can we love everybody else the way God wants us to. With such love in our hearts, for God and for others, comes obedience and servant- leadership.
So, what exactly is unconditional (agape) love? Let us start by taking a deeper look at what unconditional love entails.
Unconditional (Agape) Love
The kind of love that God has for us is unconditional. Meaning that His love for us is not based on our performance. He loves us completely (perfectly) in spite of who we are and what we do.
God’s love, agape love, can be summed up by the verse 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 which reads: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…”
God’s love for us was so great that He did not withhold His only Son. He gave up His Son for people that continually reject Him and turn away from Him.
John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Notice, that the verse says, “For God so loved the world…” It doesn’t say that God loves a specific group of people, the perfect or the lovable. Because if we were, to be honest with ourselves and others, nobody is perfect. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He died for everyone.
Unconditional (agape) love is sacrificial, observable, faithful and willing. When Jesus Christ was here on earth, He represented God. His love for God was clearly reflected in how He loved/loves through His total obedience on the cross.
Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Now, as Christians, we are to represent Jesus Christ here on earth. Unconditional love allows us to do this. Loving others is not an option that God gives us, He expects and commands us to love others, the same way He loves us. He commands us to love Him and others because He knows how important it is.
John 13:34: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
With such love, you can bring healing to the broken, and happiness to those that are sad. Spare a couple of minutes from your busy schedule and demonstrate the love of God to someone. The truth is, we never know what someone might be going through. But that one act of kindness and genuine love can go a long way in making a big difference in their life.
The love we have for God and for others is proof of our Christianity. This is how the world will know that we are the true disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 13:35: By this, all men will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another.
Like it or not, the world is watching us as the representatives of Jesus Christ. We ought to be the representatives that Jesus Christ wants us to be, so that we may not lead people astray. Greg Laurie said it best in one of his devotionals, “It has been said that a Christian is an Epistle, written by God and read by man. You are the only Bible that some people will ever read” or maybe even experience.
So, why not show it through unconditional love? I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always easy to sacrificially love others, but the more we rely on and love God, the easier it gets. Moreover, our perspective on others and life in general shifts as well.
I read an anonymous quote a couple weeks ago that spoke to me immensely. At the time, I really needed it. It encouraged me, and I hope that it will encourage you too.
“Love is not the cause of grace, it is the proof of it. When we are conscious of God’s grace in our lives, we are automatically more loving of others. Once you raise your consciousness around this gift of grace that you are continually given, the closer you get to loving others like Jesus.”- unknown
The fact remains, we are undeserving of God’s immense grace and love for us. Yet, a truly perfect God continually loves us regardless of our faults and how many times we fall and fail Him. If He loves us like that, then who are we not to love others? We are not any better than the next person, we are all sinners saved by grace. So, let’s love another.