As we learned from Pastor Kirk's sermon on Sunday, March 31, Jesus' determination of a "Christian" is not in education, not in miracles, not in the particular church that one chooses to attend, though these are important, Jesus says that "You shall know them by their love." So, we look at the word "love" in 1 Corinthians 13 which says the "Love is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in the wrong, but it rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." This all sounds good, but we all have experienced situations where our "love" situations have broken down or failed. It doesn't seem to have done what the apostle Paul in Corinthians implies. Is the Bible wrong?
When we look at the Greek (the original New Testament language) we see that while in English one word conveys "love", in the Greek there are three words that are translated in English "love". These three words are "eros", "phileo", and "agape". Eros is the term for sensual/sexual love. Phileo is the term for close friendship or family devotion. Agape is that unique love that people receive when they are born again, when they become as a branch attached to the Vine (Jesus) and bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the first of which is love. It is the love of God in us.
So, when Jesus addressed Peter between the time that He was raised from the dead and His ascension (John 21), He used these words to make a specific point with Peter. Jesus first says," Peter, do you love me more than these?" Jesus uses the term Agape; do you love me, Peter, with the love of God?" But Peter responds, "Yes Lord, I love you." Peter, however, responds using the term Phileo. Yes, Lord I love you as a truly close friend. Jesus says, "Feed my lambs". The second time Jesus asked Peter the exact same question and Peter responded with the same answer. Jesus said, "Tend my sheep". The third time, Jesus changed his term from agape to phileo i.e. "Peter do you love me (just) as a close friend (phileo) not with the love of God (Agape). the third time Peter was grieved that Jesus was acknowledging that Peter's love was limited. Peter began to see that the love that he had for Jesus had not held up to his previous commitment to Jesus that he (Peter) would never forsake Jesus or deny him (which he did when they crucified Jesus). Peter was grieved. So, his humbled expression is, "Lord, you know all about me". Jesus seeing that Peter “got it” (i.e., the love that I had for you, Lord, was not sufficient, it did not hold up as I said it would, it failed) then exhorts him to "Feed my sheep".
We see a new Peter when ten days later when Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with that "agape" love of God on the day of Pentecost. His first sermon 3000 people are "saved". His 2nd sermon, 5000 men plus others "saved". One his way to the temple, seeing the lame man, Peter says, "Silver and gold have I none but such as I have given I thee, in the name of Jesus rise up and walk!" And the man walked and was leaping and praising God through the temple! When they eventually came to crucify Peter, his response was, “I am not worthy to be crucified in the same way as my Lord, please turn me upside down." They obliged him.
So, Peter "got it”. And so, in our realization that our "phileo" (friendship or family love) often does not "cut the mustard" and does not hold up and fails. The agape love if we walk in that, will never fail us.