Whom Do You Love

John 21: 15

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?

That was a loaded question. If you have ever heard a teaching on this passage which delves into the Greek words for “love” you know that Peter was really up against the wall because Jesus was talking about a deeper kind of love than Peter was yet able to fathom. I would like for us to look at this passage today in a similar way to the Greek word study but in a way that I think makes Jesus’ meaning even more clear. (By the way, the easy way to see what was going on in the Greek is to read this passage in the Amplified Bible.)  

Let us take today’s verse and overlay it onto 1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8a. When we do so we find Jesus asking Peter a series of questions. First let us read the passage from 1 Corinthians. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant. It isn’t rude. It doesn’t think about itself. It isn’t irritable. It doesn’t keep track of wrongs. It isn’t happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. Love never comes to an end” (God’s Word Translation). In many versions the last sentence reads, Love never fails. Well, you get the point but if you really want a revelation, read this passage in the Amplified translation. Actually, read it in a lot of translations. You will be enlightened. Anyway, when you read 1 Corinthians 13 together with John 21: 15 you find Jesus asking Peter (and each of us), Peter, do you love me – will you be patient with me? Peter, are you kind to me? Are you jealous? Do you brag? Are you arrogant and self-centered? Are you ever rude to me? Peter, are you thinking of yourself or of me? Are you irritable with me? Do you keep a record of past wrongs? Are you happy with unrighteousness; happy in the truth? Will you always be patient with me, believe in me, never give up, never fail and never stop hoping? That is what Jesus was asking when he said, “Peter do you love me?” 

Now think of it this way. Jesus has said to you, “I love you.” When Jesus says he loves you he speaks in the fullness of the concept of love. That means that he is conveying to you all of those things found in 1 Corinthians 13. There is great richness and depth in Jesus’ love for you. This is the way the Father loves you also. They love you with their whole being for love is not a shallow word in Christ.

Think of this also the next time you tell a person that you love them. Do you mean to convey all that is found in 1 Corinthians 13? If not, then you don’t really love that person. It may be a deep form of “like” but it isn’t love if you cannot put their needs in front of your own applying all of the characteristics of love. You see, 1 Corinthians 13 defines love for us. In our society we can sometimes use the word love very casually but now that we see what it truly means we may want to curb our tongues. Don’t misunderstand me though. I am all for telling people that you love them. I just want you to mean what you say and understand what love is. If we are not patient and kind to people then we have to conclude that we really do not love them with what God calls love. We may need them, want them, etc. but we have not reached that place in our hearts where we can love as Jesus commanded. When this is the case we must look within ourselves and ask why we, like Peter, have such difficulty expressing true love.

Peter was at the infancy of his ministry when Jesus asked him this question and it really was a question that was intended to prepare Peter for ministry. As we continue to follow Peter’s life and ministry we see that he did get a revelation of what Jesus began teaching him with that simple question. Peter grew and changed and became a great disciple of Christ and a great bearer of the commission and commandment of Jesus. Jesus only gave us one commandment and that command is to love one another (John 13: 34). Our commission is to spread love. It sounds so 1960’s but it is the truth and the essence of Christian life and evangelism. Go into all the world and tell them the good news (Mark 16: 15). What is the good news? That God loves them and that Jesus has restored them to that non-failing, endless love.

So, I want to ask you this question. Who do you love? Do you love Jesus? Does your love for God stand up to the test? Are we putting our needs and wants before God? It is a tough test, to be sure, but looking inside our hearts for the answers will help us to grow as people and as Christians. Live, love and grow.

Giving God Away

John 13: 34

“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

John 15: 13

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus gave us one commandment knowing if we would live by this one commandment we would fulfill all the law and the prophets. Everything that God would prescribe for us is included in this one commandment, that we love one another as Jesus first loved us. 

How did Jesus love us? He loved us sacrificially. He put our needs before his even to the point of death. That is a remarkable act. Can you imagine putting other people’s needs before your desires even if it means your death? That is a tall order. Face it; most of us continuously serve ourselves even at the cost of others. How often do we cease our pursuit of what we want long enough to even consider what others need or want? It is just not our way, is it? We were not trained to serve others but rather to grab all we can get even if it means hurting others. So, what does it take for us to, even for a moment, retire our self-interest long enough to consider the needs and wants of someone else?

Whatever Jesus told us to do he has also empowered us to do. That is good news, yes? But realize too that there is no excuse for disobedience. We do not have the excuse that we cannot do what he has commanded because he always provides the ability with the command. So, if this is Jesus’ command to us, and we know it is, and he has empowered us with the ability to fulfill the love command, then why aren’t more of us living by this commandment? 

God is love. He is the power and authority required to fulfill this commandment. Jesus is showing us that our grand command is to convey the essence of God to others. Did you catch that? Since our command is to love one another and God is love then the command is to “God” one another as Jesus did or to express the nature and heart of God among one another just like Jesus did. It sounds like a difficult task but Jesus provided the way. He told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father which would give them the requisite power (Acts 1: 4 – 8). Then he sent the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit has come to make his abode in us, to actually live in our hearts. He is the power to love and to live. The only way we can do what Jesus has commanded us to do is for us to fill up with God. We can never in our own strength or by an effort of our will love people the way Jesus has directed us. We must first let love fill us to overflowing, then we will be able to let the expression of who God is flow out of us.

So we have an absolute command from our Lord regarding how we are to treat others and he has provided the means by which we can adhere to his command. We must make a decision to obey this commandment of love. We need to understand with our minds that it means putting others needs ahead of ours. We should actually spend some time thinking about what that means and meditating on how that might appear in practice. Then we need to seek the help of the Father through prayer. We must first let Him love us. We will never be able to love others if we do not first receive the love of God deep into our hearts. His love can only flow through us once we have allowed Him to abide fully within us. So there is our starting point and perhaps where many of us fail. Make a decision to obey Jesus’ command to love others as he loved us and then earnestly seek the help of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Open your heart and let God flow into it. Open your heart and let His love flow out.