Sunday, February 06, 2005

Do You Love Me?

Where did January go? I spent New Year's day refocusing on old resolutions-lose weight, get organized, and finish my novel-the same ones from '04. The next thing I know it's February!
It seems that '05 promises to be a year on the fast track and I'd better catch up! So, instead of writing about the New Year's promise of fresh starts, I'll turn my muse on the eternal theme of February-Love.

Many have tried to define love. But through all the prose, poetry, and song, love still has an elusive quality. In the English language the word love covers a multitude of things. In one breath I can say:

I love my husband and children,
I love chocolate,
I love my dog,
I love the blues,
I love Jesus.

But the Greeks, who are the masters of language, have many words for love.

Family love is "storgeo." Friendship love is "phileo." For romantic love or passion either for a person or a cause they use "eros." And the ultimate kind of love, the love without conditions, the love that expects nothing in return is "agapao." This love is rooted in the mind and will. It doesn't depend on emotion, but is a choice.

We see this illustrated in the book of John when Jesus asks Peter if he loved him.

Poor Peter. Only a few days earlier he had boldly proclaimed his selfless devotion and willingness to die for Jesus, then denied him three times. He watched Jesus suffer unimaginable torture and cruelty at the hands of the men he came to redeem.

Then, after breakfasting on the banks of the Lake of Galilee, Jesus turned to Peter and asked, "Do you love me? Peter answered,"Yes, you know I love you." Jesus asked the same thing twice more and Peter answered the same way. Or at least that is the way it appears in most biblical translations. But if you look at the original language, the conversation went like this:

"Peter, do you agapao me? Meaning, do you esteem, honor, treasure me? Are you devoted to me with all your heart, soul, and spirit? Do you love me even when you are angry, depressed, hungry, poor, or sick?"

Peter understood exactly what Jesus asked and he was all too aware of what he was capable of doing. He didn't want to make the same foolish mistake as before. A very humbled Peter answered, "Yes, Lord, you know I'm your friend." Meaning I am very fond of you.

Jesus asked a second time, "Do you agapao me?" A second time Peter answered, "You are my friend."

The third time Jesus asked, "Peter, am I your friend?" Peter was grieved that he couldn't love Jesus the way he wanted to be loved, but Peter had to be honest and answered "You know all things, you know I'm your friend."

What does this passage tell us about Jesus and agapao love?

First, no matter how we have let Jesus down, he is waiting to restore us.

Notice how Jesus leads the conversation with Peter having him proclaim three times his affection for Jesus, absolving each denial.

Second, he is willing to meet us at our lowest point, take our hand, and lead us to our highest best.

When he asked Peter, "Am I your friend," he showed Peter that he didn't expect great acts from him, only his willingness to follow, to learn and to obey.

Before Peter left this earth he had an agapao relationship with the Lord.

This is love.

Jesus meets us where we are at. It doesn't matter how many times we've failed, all he asks for is our willingness to obey him. As we know him better we choose to love others without conditions, we choose to love when our emotions are cold, and to love those who have hurt us.

It takes a brave person to love as Jesus loves. But the weakest among us are doing just that.