03 Feb New York Life, The Super Bowl, You and Jesus
Last night, during the Super Bowl, this ad from New York Life came on and I was driven to tears by it. I loved it because of the beautiful representation of different levels and types of love, but I also enjoyed it because it reminded me of a story in the Bible – one where Jesus makes a distinction between two types of love in Greek – Phileo and Agape.
“After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love (agape) me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love (phileo) you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love (agape) me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love (phileo) you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love (phileo) me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love (phileo) you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”” — John 21:15-17
In this passage, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times. This passage takes place after Jesus’ death and resurrection, so the last time we, the reader, saw Peter prior to this, he denied ever knowing Jesus three, separate times during individual interactions and conversations. Guilt-ridden Peter certainly understood the symbolism in Jesus asking this question 3 times, which is a humbling and grace-filled moment of extended love, friendship, and forgiveness. Reconciliation in love at its finest. I see myself so very much in this conversation – Jesus knowing all my dirty secrets, acts of defiance and betrayal… then meeting me with love, friendship and forgiveness.
In the passage, the first two times He asks, Jesus uses the ‘agape’ form of love, which is understood to be a more-general meaning of the concept of unconditional love. This love is servant-hearted, compassionate, and generous. It continues to give even when the recipient is unworthy. This love is more descriptive of a love you would give someone no matter who they are or what they’ve done. It’s the type of love that we would understand that God has for us and that we should strive to have for God and for others as believers.
But the third time that Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, He uses ‘phileo,’ which speaks of affection, fondness and a relationship that has grown into a deep affection for one other. This love is relational, friendly and full of companionship. It’s brotherly love that you would have for a dear friend.
Because ‘agape’ is a more universally-understood meaning of unconditional love, it’s interesting to me that Jesus chose to use ‘phileo’ as a way to get Peter to go deeper in his understanding of his relationship with Jesus. It’s almost as if Jesus wanted to make a point…
“Don’t just love me because I’m God – love me because I’m your dearly, beloved friend.”
Jesus wanted Peter to love Him not only because He was the Son of God, but also because they had built a deep and intimate friendship. He wanted to know that Peter also cared about Him as a brother and as a friend.
And most-importantly, He wanted Peter to see true reconciliation in relationships – love, friendship and forgiveness – and that it requires both kinds of love, an unconditional love for someone undeserving AND a deep bond of affection built on quality time, history and friendship.
And Jesus wants us to know that, too. He doesn’t just want us to love Him because He’s God… He wants us to have a deep affection born out of quality time, history, and friendship with Him. Both types of love. For example…
Phileo is the affection that I grew to have for my husband. As time has passed, our phileo has become more-agape-like in that we are committed to each other unconditionally, but because we have grown to know and love (phileo) one another. Our developed-over-time, unconditional love is made sweeter by our friendship.
My children, on the other hand, are automatic recipients of my love (agape) simply by being my children, but as I grow to know them and spend time with them, we’ve developed a deep, relational bond and love (phileo) which just makes it all stronger. Our developed-over-time friendship is made sweeter by our unconditional, undeserved love.
Jesus, being both God and man knows this – and desperately wants a deep, quality friendship with each and every one of His children. Spend time with Him. Talk to Him. Take your burdens to Him. Maybe you’ll develop a friendship with Him first, that turns into a deep, forever, can’t-be-broken love for Jesus. Or maybe you’ve had a stagnant, but never intimate love for Him because of who He is, but you come to find that love is so much sweeter when you come to truly know Him.
He so desperately wants to be your God, your father and your friend.