One of the greatest limitations of the English language is that we only have one word for love. The most common Greek lesson in our churches concerns the Greek forms of love, especially in regards to John 21:15-17. The two words used by Peter and Jesus would best be translated something like this…
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me [unconditionally] more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you [like a brother].”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me [unconditionally]?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you [like a brother].”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you [even] love me [like a brother]?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you [even] love me [like a brother]?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you [like a brother].”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
Jesus began by asking Peter if he loved him unconditionally (agapo). Peter replied by saying that he loved him like a brother or close friend (philo). Peter was not at the point that he could answer truthfully that he loved Jesus unconditionally with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. Peter was staring God in the face and could not bring himself to express this agape love which God expressed to mankind so clearly.
Fast forward a few decades and Peter is writing a letter to the scattered believers. The church has spread throughout most of the known world. Men and women were fully committed in love and devotion to this Jesus of Nazareth. Look what Peter had to say to these Christians:
“Though you have not seen him, you love him [unconditionally]; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9
These people had never seen Jesus. They had never been to Jerusalem or the Sea of Galilee. They never saw a miracle, never heard a parable, and had no physical proof that the resurrection ever even happened. Yet they believed. What’s more – they loved him…unconditionally. They had this agape love for Jesus that Peter himself could not express even while looking into the eyes of the resurrected Lord.
Now think about it. How many times have you caught yourself thinking that you would believe more fully if you could just see God. You would truly learn to love Him if only he show himself to you. So what is it going to take? Action on God’s part or commitment on yours? Are you going to be just one more generation that “asks for a sign,” or are you going to take a look around and see the signs that are already there?