Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Do You Love Me? A Meditation on John 21:1-19


The English Language is, in many ways, one of the least descriptive languages in the world.  That fact can lead to a lot of misunderstandings and problems.  I was recently talking to some young people about marriage.  They had heard that over time, a married couple does not love each other in the same way as when they met.  That this love that brought them together had faded and they now needed to learn to live with one another; to create a life together without the intense feelings that they once had for one another. 

This belief is everywhere in the media and popular culture.  Hollywood is one of the best sources for how relationships dissolve in a matter of months or years.  So this belief is what society is teaching us.  That love is fleeting and once it is gone, you can to get out of it.  It is such a cynical and ignorant view about what Love really is. 


For young people, that worldview is a scary proposition. 

·      What if I marry someone but fall out of love?

·      What happens next?

o   Will we be miserable the rest of our lives?

o   Will we get a divorce?

What is the point of getting married?

As with a lot of things in society today, the meaning of things have been diminished.  They no longer have the power they once did .  The same can be said of Love. Today we can love just about anything.

·      We love pizza

·      We love football

·      We love our car
Really?  Do you really love your car?  If you do, your understanding of love is nothing more than anything that gives you pleasure at that given time.

Yet, we know that it is much more.  We know that Love is the most beautiful thing we will encounter in our lives.  It is what God is.  As a result, it is not that simple. 

As I said in the beginning, the English Language is one of the least descriptive languages that I have been exposed to.  A good example is just that word.   


  Love
 
What is Love? 

To the ancient Greeks and the Romans, one word could not describe this concept.  In fact, there were three major words that described this feeling.  These were:

Eros – What most people think of and that is romantic love; the love that gets your heart racing; your heart can actually hurt.

Filial – The love you have for family and friends

But the last one is the most important:

Agape – sacrificial love; love that you will do anything for; even to the point of death. 

In the English language, one word covers them all.  It is just not adequate.
 
And because of the simplicity of the English language, we do not really hear what is being said between Jesus and Peter.  We have all heard Jesus asked Peter 3 times, if he loved him and 3 times Peter said yes.  After each yes, Jesus gave Peter a command:

Feed my lambs

Tend my sheep

Feed my sheep

There have been many discussions for why Jesus asked him 3 times.   The most popular is that Jesus  wanted Peter to say he loved Him as many times as he denied Him.  But that does not tell the entire story.

In the Greek, Jesus asks Peter:

Do you Agape me?  Jesus is asking Peter if he is willing to sacrifice all for Him.

Peters answer is Yes, Lord I Filia you.  Wait a minute.  Peter just said he loves Jesus as a brother.  Not the same kind of Love.

Again Jesus says, Peter, do you Agape me?  And again Peter says yes, I Filia you.  Still, Peter does not get it.

And finally Jesus asked Peter at 3rd time, but this time he says to Peter, do you Filia me? And Peter says yes, I Filia you.

Jesus again goes to where Peter is, not where Christ wants him to be.  Even in His resurrected body he must again take on His humanity to relate to Peter.

But we also hear Jesus tell his disciples that when they are young they will do what they want, but when they get older:

you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go

Signifying that Peter will someday learn what Agape really means.  He too will sacrifice everything for Jesus Christ and His Church. 
Jesus tells us over and over again.  It is not about us!  It is about everyone but us!  Although it is contrary to popular culture, to be happy, you need to focus on others. 
 
God gave us these 3 loves for a reason.  We need Eros.  It is how we find our partner.  It is how we can forget the world and focus on one person; it is the power that leads us to come together to create new life.  But that is just the beginning.  That Eros can turn into a way to think about someone else and not ourselves.  Where their well-being is more important than ours.  That Eros turns to Agape.
Filial love is the love we share with families and friends.  In our lives we will have many people we call friends.  I remember when we were in Germany, that our friends (and they are friends) were surprised at the number of people we call "friends".  In Germany, most people you know are acquaintances, and only a few are friends.  But ask yourself, how many people do you know you could I call at 3 am because you need them and know that whatever you ask, they will be there?  Its not so many people is it. That is when it turns to Agape.  That is when Filial Love has reached perfection.


On my pre-ordination retreat, we were told that this is what we should all strive for.  To love people with a great sense of Agape.  That is how you can truly be someone’s friend; it is how you can understand the feelings between a couple that have celebrated 50 years of marriage.  It is how you can visualize your own life with someone forever, discarding the world view that society tries to feed you; knowing that it is a lie.  We were told to never use the word Love outside of the context of people.  When we do it, we diminish its power.   

When encounter Christ in our daily lives, you must remember:


He Died for you

He Died for you

He Died for you


There is no greater love.


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