By Em Sumaway
When we love someone, we express that love. How do you express your love and devotion to Jesus? If someone were to watch closely the way you live, what priority would they say Jesus has in your life?
The motivation to follow the Lord must be that of love—the agape love to be more specific. Here are some observations concerning the conversation.
Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” This is obviously because Peter denied Him three times. Peter answered each question with, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” There is an interesting change of terms here that we cannot find in reading just the translations. In the first two questions, the Lord used the word agapas, from the root agapaō. This is the highest form of love—sacrificial love. But Peter answered with a different word, philō, from the root phileō, which signifies love for a friend. It’s as if the Lord had said, “Peter, do you love me ardently and supremely?” To which Peter answers, “Lord, I have affection for you—I esteem you—but I will say no more.” On the third question, the Lord went down to Peter’s level of love to Him by using the phileō instead of agapaō. This is perhaps the reason why Peter was grieved in v.17—he cannot give to the Lord the kind of love that He was asking for.
But, later on, Peter matured. In his two epistles, Peter never used the word phileō, always the word agapaō. He used it nine times in his first epistle and two times in the second. This is even the word he used when he exhorted the believers to “greet one another with a kiss of love” (1 Pet. 5:14). Here, we can see that Peter finally had that kind of love that the Lord was asking from him.
According to Jesus in John 8:42, we can only love the Lord if God is our Father. He also said that a manifestation of true love for Him is that of obedience to His commands (Jn. 14:15, 24). In these three citations, the word used is agapē. A true follower of Christ must have a love for Him which surpasses simple friendly affection. This is the very essence of the greatest commandment in the Law (Mt. 22:37; Mk. 12:30; Lu. 10:27). He deserves nothing less than our utmost love and devotion.