The Depth of Love:
The New Testament
was written in Greek, a common language of the day. An interesting note about that language is that it has many words
with similar meanings, much like the English language. There is one interesting note we would like to share here that
the Greek had four words for the word love. When we say, we love, it could mean a candy bar, our family or even God.
With so much variation, our usage of the word is deemed as reckless and abused. The four words in Greek that may be
interpreted for love are as follows: 1) Eros—erotic, sensual, and physical related. 2) Storge—a
weak relationship that dissolves where there is lack of interest or need. These first two are not used in the New Testament
and are still interesting in understanding the concept of love. The last two are: 3) Phileo—affectionate
regard, friendship, usually between equals. 4) Agape--the highest form of love; the love of God for
man and of man for God; embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends, that serves regardless of circumstances.
Establishing these concepts, we now can move into the realm of the depth of love. Most of us know the concept of John
3:16 where Jesus declares the depth of God’s love. We must also realize that this type of love may only be given
by God and shown to God by humanity’s reciprocity (mutual exchange). There is one exchange that should open our
eyes to the depth of this love called Agape. “Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon,
son of Jonah, do you love (Agape) Me
more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love (Philo) You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He
said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (Agape)
Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love
(Philo) You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’
He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (Philo)
Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you
love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (Philo) You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’” John 21:15-17
As you may notice, Jesus was urging a higher level of love than friendship, yet with Peter’s denial of Jesus, Peter
could not seem to respond to that love. The depth of love Jesus was seeking was that of a relationship that God desires
with His children. Peter’s inability to grant that type of love is evident. Peter was distressed to here
Jesus ask him three times this question. Yet, it should remind all Christians how we should love and respond to God.
Even when we are not in the state of obedience God may desire for our lives. Peter was encouraged to “feed my
sheep” even in his lesser state of obedience and love. All Christians who hold the Gospel in their lives, should
feel the responsibility to share that message. We should strive to achieve the level of love that Jesus was striving
to bring forth in Peter.
The depth of love we should feel should be derived from the love that God has shown to us. That depth is seen in the
Two Greatest Commandments: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And
the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On
these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew
22:37-40 When we realize the meaning of these verses and the depth of what Jesus was striving to share with Peter, we can
conclude how important love is. It has been said that the Bible is God’s love letter to humanity, and we doubt
it not. For, the existence of Agape love is the very depth of how great a love God has shown us by His Son Jesus Christ.
Our striving to achieve such a love should be a life-long endeavor. We should always recognize God as our help, deliver,
consoler, and dearest friend. Jesus was emphatic when He called us His “friends” in John 15:15, a verse
that opens the door of familiarity to God. God is not that old person sitting on a throne, but a loving and kind Father
that has strived through the ages to reconcile the differences that sin has brought to our world.
When Peter could
not bring himself to apply the concept of a Godly love, we believe he grieved Jesus’ Spirit. In the act of questioning
him three times the same question helps us realize God is patient with our lives. How many times have you denied God
in your life? How many times have you rejected His call to service? How many times have you not accepted the depth
of Agape love? We generally settle for the Philo relationship! It is sad that we find our lives denied the closeness
we could have if we would just seek God’s greatest love—Agape. Yet, we are a people who relish their own
attentions and aspirations. We seek the relationships we are familiar with, all the while, rejecting the more important
relationship with God.
Why do we not embrace the fullness of God and
recognize His leadership and great desire to know us in such a special way? You would think Peter, who saw all the miracles
of Jesus, would have an easy time of embracing that Agape love. Yet, he denied Jesus three times! If Peter could
not understand, how may we? It is by the leadership of the Holy Spirit, that we may know this love. We now have
His Spirit indwelling (living) within us, so that God may guide us in our everyday lives. The New Testament Church has
the greatest of all tools in seeking God—His very presence in all born again believers. There is a word that we
embrace in this quest— “seek”. If we but look for God, He will reveal His glory in our lives.
It is more a matter of our opening our hearts to His presence.