Love is Love Except When It Isn’t

In Sunday’s sermon, I preached about Jesus’s third appearance in the Gospel we call John. There were several pieces that fascinated me about the text. Saturday, I focused on the fantastic image of Peter, sitting naked in a boat, dressing, and jumping into the water. The other is the interaction between Jesus and Peter about love.

This interaction, as I wrote previously, deals with two different Greek words for love. Jesus asks Peter if he agape/loves him. Peter responds by saying “you know I phile/love you.” The traditional response to this interaction is to say that these loves aren’t different enough to matter. I certainly disagree.

Jesus is asking Peter if he loves Him in a sacrificial, generous way. Peter says that he loves Jesus in a “I’m drawn to you way.” And the interaction is therefore really subtle. You know that I love you in this way Peter seems to say.

Do you love me this way?

Jesus, you know I love you that way.



It seems that Jesus’s last chat with Peter is one last appeal for Peter to understand what Jesus has been saying the whole time. And particularly on that auspicious Thursday, hours before Jesus would be arrested, tried, and executed on a cross. Love GOD and love one another. Love sacrificially. Generously. Eagerly. Give of yourself to others.

Our problem is that we, like Peter, are obsessed with attraction love. Love that draws us in, pulls us to GOD, and compels us to worship. Love that is dependent on our getting psyched up or emotionally invested in church. Consumer society has made this even worse. Now we need to be “fed” by church or else we’re going somewhere else. We need church to look 100% the way it is in our brains or else we feel justified in getting pissed off and emotionally abusive.

We love Jesus with phile love.

And just a few weeks ago, on Maundy Thursday, we were reminded what kind of love Jesus wants from us.

In other words, Jesus has asked us to love GOD and love one another and we are offering the wrong love.

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