Love - Easy to Say, Hard to Do

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, December 27, 2012 0 comments

Most of you have probably either been in a situation or at least seen one on TV or in the movies where two people were talking about love and the moment of truth arrived where they find out who is willing to take that huge leap and utter those three magical words, “I love you”. I just watched a movie the other day where the woman was desperately trying to get her man to say it the whole movie, yet it was too late when he was finally able to bring himself to do it because she had already moved on with her life. The man, like many, was scared of what kind of lasting commitment those words would mean if he actually had to “walk the walk” instead of just talking about it.

I’ve been in the situation described above personally and if you have ever had a very serious relationship or marriage, you have too. We all know that there are certain benchmarks of every relationship where it passes from a casual stage to a much more serious one. Those benchmarks may not be the same for everyone, but I’d be willing to bet that being able to express both privately and publicly that you LOVE each other is the most common one. The reason why such a proclamation is taken so seriously has very little to do with the actual words, for it’s pretty easy to talk about love. The real challenge is living it out, especially when you know you have already tried as hard as you possibly can many times and have still failed miserably. All of a sudden, even uttering the words is intimidating because of how it has humbled you in the past.

When you really think about it, the concept of love absolutely SHOULD be intimidating. I mean, what else is there in the Bible that is directly synonymous with God? 1 John 4:16 says very clearly that “God is love”. It’s the only noun that God IS. We have many other adjectives to describe God’s character and attributes in Scripture, but love is something that pretty much sums up everything else. Since man can only partially understand God, His greatness as our Creator is intimidating to any that truly worship Him and seek to obey His commands. And since God is love, that makes love a very intimidating idea.

In Monday’s blog, Katie shared three of the various words for “love” from the Greek language and pointed out that the love attributed to God consistently in the New Testament is “agape”, a kind of self-sacrificing love. I think it’d be fair to say that it’s pretty easy and not so intimidating to use “love” to describe our feelings about things that aren’t going to require us to sacrifice much of ourselves. For example, I can say that I love the Pittsburgh Steelers, love my job, love ice cream, and love the season of autumn. All of these statements are true and don’t even require a passing thought in saying them because not much is really required of me in living them out. But when we talk about loving God or someone created in His image (by the way, that’s everybody), the uncertainty of what that will require in terms of sacrifice can be terrifying.

I believe that may have been what was going through Peter’s mind when Jesus, who had recently been resurrected, was speaking to him directly after appearing to all the disciples. The dialogue is recorded in John 21:15-22 and I encourage you to read it on your own. Peter was undoubtedly the most ashamed disciple when Jesus was crucified because he had denied knowing his Lord 3 times, and the most excited disciple upon his resurrection because it meant another chance at living out his bold claims of love for Jesus. However, his excitement didn’t come without a little trepidation.

Jesus asked Peter 3 times if he loved him and Peter’s affirmative responses and subsequent comments give us insight into his cautiousness at using such a big word to describe his feelings. In our translation, it appears as simple repetition because we have only the one word for the different types of “love”. But in the Greek, Jesus asks Peter the first two times if Peter loves (agape) him, and Peter responds both times that he does indeed love (philia) him (check out Katie’s blog from Monday if you don’t know the difference in the words for “love”). Do you understand what was happening? Jesus wanted to know if Peter loved him enough to sacrifice all for him to the very end. After all, Peter had made that very claim in the past (Matthew 26:33) before denying his Lord. Peter, now with much more hesitancy after his previous failures, simply responds that he loves Jesus as a friend and brother. When Jesus asks Peter a third time, he changes the word to “philia” and Peter repeats what he had already said twice.

The conversation that followed showed why Peter was not quite to the point of boldly proclaiming “agape” love. Jesus spoke about how Peter would be persecuted and martyred for his sake, and Peter’s reaction was to compare his future to that of John, another disciple. Peter was beginning to understand the magnitude of “agape” love, regarding both what Jesus was willing to do for him and what he was not yet sure he would be able to do for Jesus. The amazing thing about Christ is that he was God, meaning he already knew what was in Peter’s heart, yet he proceeded to ask him anyway. Furthermore, he did not blast Peter for his struggles but instead met Peter at the place where he was and lovingly challenged him.

Friends, Jesus is not requiring you to be perfect at “agape” love. In fact, the only perfect, self-sacrificing love there is comes from Christ. If you are constantly working hard to try to attain some standard of love apart from Christ, you will never be satisfied and will always find yourself failing. This kind of love is so BIG that it can’t be accomplished without the Holy Spirit, the Counselor that was sent by God after Christ (John 14 & 16), living and working in our hearts.

Are you at the point where Peter was at in your life right now? Are you terrified at the thought of having to love God or someone else and what kind of sacrifice it may require of you? If so, I would encourage you that your feelings are normal and legitimate considering what “agape” love really means. It’s much easier said than done. But I would also encourage you that Jesus is not evaluating you on how successfully or poorly you are able to DO “agape” love. If Peter’s story was any example for us, we see that Jesus simply asks for a willing heart. He didn’t stand there and make Peter apologize or hold his failures over his head, no matter how much the betrayal hurt Jesus. He knew Peter’s heart, and simply challenged him to self-examine his own commitment. Jesus knew that if Peter was willing to fully surrender his heart to him, everything else would follow. So, that’s my hope for me and for each of you. Rather than attempting to figure out how to DO “agape”, simply humble yourself before Christ, tell him your heart belongs to him, and ask him to lead you and show you what that love really means.