by Julie Bruce
There is much we can learn from the disciple, Peter…but what about love? Have you ever thought about what he can teach us to help us develop godly marriages? Take a moment to read John 21:15-17:
When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”
“Feed My lambs,” He told him.
A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”
“Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.
He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.”
“Feed My sheep,” Jesus said.
This portion of scripture takes place after Jesus’ resurrection. The disciples had been out fishing all night and had caught nothing. As the sun was dawning, Jesus stood on the shoreline but the disciples were not aware of who Jesus was. From the shore Jesus called out and told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. The result? There were so many fish, they couldn’t haul them all in! It was then that John recognized the Lord. You can almost see in your mind as John nudges Peter with his elbow and shouts, “Look Peter! It’s Jesus!” Peter was so excited to see the Lord that he jumped in the sea and swam to shore, leaving the other disciples to haul in the catch. There’s a lesson we could learn just from this. When was the last time you were so excited to meet with the Lord that you left everything behind in your haste just to spend time with him? Another question we can ask is, when was the last time you were so excited to spend time with your spouse that you dropped everything you were doing just to be with him/her?
Let’s back up in the Bible just a little. If you will remember, Peter was the disciples that denied Jesus three times before Jesus was crucified. Can you imagine how Peter must have felt? Jesus told him he would deny him three times and Peter exclaimed he would never do such a thing…but Peter did just want Jesus had predicted. I love how Peter, even though he had denied Jesus was so excited to see his Savior. What about you? When you’ve messed up and feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit are you excited to run to Jesus? Don’t let shame or pride keeps you from running to him.
But back to the story…. Jesus had cooked them breakfast and the disciples are now all on the shore eating and enjoying being with Jesus once again. Three time Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me.” Reading this Biblical account in English doesn’t really give us the real picture about what’s going on. You see, I can say I love pizza. I love my friends. I love my family. I love my children. I love my spouse. However, I do not love pizza the same way I love my children. I do not love my spouse the same way I love my friends. Love is complicated. It is an emotion that is difficult to understand. Because of this, the Greeks came up with different words to convey the meaning of love they wanted to express. The New Testament is primarily written in Greek. We are going to look at three Greek words used for love and see how they apply to marriage.
The first two times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me,” the word love is the Greek word agape. However, Peter answered with the word philo. Let’s look at the meaning of these two words and we will then understand the conversation between Jesus and Peter.
Philos, or Phileo, is a brotherly type of love. When the Greeks used this word, they conveyed a feeling of warm and tender platonic love, such as you would feel towards a friend they are committed to and chosen to love. It is expressed through loyalty and requires familiarity.
Friendship is the foundation of any successful relationship. Think back to when you met your spouse. Chances are you were friends first. It was that period of time where you were getting to know each other and before you made any commitment to a more serious relationship.
At some point (maybe even at first sight) an attraction for each other began. Even without knowing each other all that much, you may have had some strong emotions based on the physical traits you saw. This is the eros love or romantic love. It is the sexual passion you have for your spouse. When eros love is on the scene, you only see the good in the other person. Everything is rosy and your have the mushy feeling of happily ever after. However, real love can not be based off of eros love. Eros is a selfish type of love, only looking for the benefits for self. If this is the only type of love you base your marriage on, you marriage will fail as soon as a few pounds are added on or when you see her without her make up on. It will end when something more attractive comes around. In contrast, philos is a love that is based on “give and take.” This means that both husband and wife gain in a mutual way. Each person has some idea of what they expect to receive from the other, but they are also just as concerned as what they can give to their spouse.
Agape love (the kind of love that Jesus was asking about) is the highest of all loves. It is the love of God for man and the kind of love man should have for God. With agape love, it does not matter if love is returned. It is committed to love whether it is returned or not. It is an unconditional love. Agape love does not say, “As long as you meet my needs, I will love you.” Agape love says, “I will love you no matter what!” It is totally selfless. This is the love that Jesus showed us when he willingly laid down his life and took the punishment for our sins on himself as he hung on a cross. His death in our place was his gift to us . He chose to die for us so that we would not spend eternity in hell.
Now that you have an understanding of these types of love, think about how you express each of these three loves to your spouse.
Which type of love primarily is expressed in your marriage?
What are some ways you can show unconditional love for your spouse?