Love in the First Degree

Love in the First Degree

To this day when my grandchildren or my children say I love you I respond with I love you more. When my grandchildren were smaller it became a game of who could expound their love the most. It went something like this. “I love you!” “I love you more!” “I love you all the way to the moon and back!” “I love you all the way to Pluto and back!” “I love you to infinity and beyond!” Ultimately our match of word pong would end with one of us saying, “Well I love you to God and back and there is no greater love!” AMEN!
Recently in our Sunday school we were talking about the disciple Simon (Peter). Prior to Jesus death Peter had adamantly declared that he would never deny Jesus, and that in fact he would even die for Him. Well we all know what happened. Peter denied Jesus three times in the same day just as Jesus said he would. After Jesus resurrection Jesus asks Simon (Peter) three times. “Simon do you love me?” (John 21: 15-19) So often we can skim over the profound awesomeness of God’s word without realizing how precious it truly is. Maybe some of us have read this scripture and fell to our knees thanking God that we are nothing like Simon Peter!
Truth be told, we use the word love so easily in our society. We love Jesus, each other, our church, chocolate, bunnies, fast cars and the list goes on and on. Love rolls off our tongue like butter. But when it comes down to the evidence of our declaration it is like nailing Jello to a wall. There is no proof in the pudding, for our proclamation of love is just that, words.
Agape love is a love that is self-sacrificing and puts others interest above our own. Agape love is more than a feeling—it is an act of the will. It is love that results in follow through and proven by actions. This is the love that Jesus is asking Simon about when He says, “Simon do you love (agape) me?” Bless Peter for he responds honestly by saying, “You know Lord that I love (Phileo) you.” Phileo love is an affectionate love like one would have for a brother or friend. It is no wonder that near the close of their conversation Peter is weeping bitterly because He knows when the rubber hit the road and it was time to line up his actions with his declaration of love that he had failed. Three times in fact! He loved Jesus affectionately (Phileo) but his actions did not show he loved Him sacrificially (agape). So glad we are not guilty of that!
And yet our Savior’s heart is to restore Peter by telling Him how he will die. We miss this very important part. Jesus is reassuring Peter in midst of the disappointment of his failure and in the midst of his godly sorrow that leads to repentance that he will most assuredly agape Jesus with his life, even to death on the cross. Jesus says to Peter follow me and He did. Not with just words but with all His oomph! Wow! Read more about Peter and you will see agape love for His Savior fleshed out in his life time and time again.
Anyone can wear an “I love Jesus T-shirt” or put a fish bumper sticker on their car but Agape love is not just a declaration of easily spoken words but an intentional process of honoring our Lord in all that we say and do. It is sacrifice and obedience. It is God-centered and not self-centered. It is a disciple’s life that stands ready to die to our wants, desires and plans for the cause of Christ. It is a disciple’s life that takes up God’s will and follows Him daily and not just on Sunday. Can you say it and mean it with your life? Jesus I agape you! If loving Him becomes a crime will the evidence of your life find you guilty?