“‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’”
This passage from John, which comes to us as the Gospel reading for today’s celebration of Holy Eucharist, is one of the more interesting and telling passages in Holy Scripture–in my humble opinion. Interesting and telling not because of the witty banter between Jesus and Peter (in fact there is little wit in this brief conversation); but interesting and telling because of how Peter and Jesus talk about love.
As Jamie Large, one of our two youth preachers on Youth Sunday a couple of weeks ago teased out for us, in English we have one word for “love,” which we apply to a number of different contexts. However, in Greek there are several words for love–much like how in Norwegian there are between 180 and 300 words for snow.
When you read this passage in the Greek you see that Jesus uses the word “agape” for the kind of love that he is referring to, and Peter responds with a version of “philadelphos.” Here is the quote above in the Greek:
Jesus uses “agapas” and Peter uses “philo.” The interlinear translation of “you are loving,” and “I am being fond of,” are correct. This puts this whole passage, and the force of Jesus’ words, into a different light. The agape love that Jesus speaks of is the all-loving, fierce, even to the point of tough love, love of God for all of God’s creation. Agape love is the self-sacrificial love of Jesus dying on the cross. The philadephos that Peter responds to Jesus with is the love of brotherhood, slightly-more-that-Facebook-friend, glad-you’re-on-the-team, Band of Brothers, kind of love.
God loves you with agape. Who do you love with agape? How do you show the love of God to those in your life? What do you do; how do you act; how would those who you love with agape know that you love them with that force, that magnitude, that depth? Today, find those whom you love with agape and tell them that you love them.
As the old blessing says:
“Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who journey the way with us. So be swift to love, and make haste to be kind. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.”