Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Do you Agape me?

A long and overdue post inspired by SHYC 2011:

I have been meaning to write this post for some time now and haven’t been able to put the full time into it. So today, instead of cleaning my room, I’m finally sitting down to flush out some scripture.

Key Terms for this blog post:

Phileo: Greek word, means to have affection (sentiment, passion or feeling) for. A fondness based in the heart. What the Greeks meant by Phileo love is what we normally think of the words "brotherly love" meaning today.

Agape: Greek word, means the highest form of love. Most closely related to unconditional love. It loves when all other types of love quit, and cares when there is no apparent reason to care.

John 21: 15-17

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep."

We know this passage come after Peter’s betrayal of Jesus that led to His death, and Jesus has come back to restore Peter. What our English translation does not tell us is that the first two times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, He is asking about agape love. Jesus is yearning for Peter to give Him the full, overpowering, and unconditional agape that Jesus has already given him. Each of these times, Peter answers Jesus, “Yes, Lord, I you.” Peter cannot give Jesus the agape love He is asking for, but offers Him a phileo love.

This made me think about my current faith. I’ve have been struggling with how tragedy deals with faith. I can’t say that I’ve lost my faith, it is very much there and still a part of who I am and how I live my life, but my personal connection with God seems to have reached a roadblock. You could say that I just don’t know what to say to God right now. It is something that shakes me to my core. I have never been in a place where I couldn’t even talk to God about what was going on in my life. Even when I felt completely lost, I’ve always been able to pray with my whole heart. I can really relate to Peter on this one. I feel like God is tugging at me for my agape, but right now, all I can give is phileo.

When Jesus asks Peter the 3rd time, “Do you love me?” He sees the desire in Peter’s eyes to be able to say yes to Jesus’ love, but Jesus also sees his brokenness and that phileo is all that he can give, so when Jesus asks Peter the third time, He asks, “ Do you phileo me?”

This hit me. Jesus will always be asking, “Do you agape me?” He will constantly be striving for our full and unconditional love, but Jesus also knows our minds and our hearts inside and out. He knows when we are not capable of giving it all, so He asks Peter to give all that He is able.

The Bible says Peter is hurt by this, and when looking at the Greek, I see that it is for a different reason than I had previously thought. Peter is not upset because Jesus continues to ask him the same question, but that Jesus has searched his heart and knows what Peter is capable of.

I feel frustrated like Peter. I imagine he is stuck in the same boat. He has his faith, he believes Jesus is Lord and all of the things he has seen over his journey with Christ, but something about the recent events of his life have put up a roadblock between him and God. I know what God is asking of me, to love with my whole heart, unconditionally and without reservation, but, like Peter, all I can give right now is phileo. It is comforting to know that Jesus will always be pursuing that agape love from me, but knows my heart and understands what I am truly able to give.

Last weekend, the YAVs went on a retreat to Poplarville, MS (it’s as small as it sounds). We are currently spending some time on discernment, something that has been very hard for me to put my heart into these past couple of months. I have been really struggling with my motivation and find myself getting frustrated with why I can’t seem to throw myself into the discernment process. It has made me feel like I’m letting down my community or somehow not contributing as much as the others who are really getting something out of this process, but through a conversation with Janet, our discernment/spiritual advisor for the weekend, I was reminded of the lesson I learned back in January about Peter.

I need to be okay with giving what I can.

I will always be frustrated when I don’t live up to the expectations I set for myself, but I am comforted to know that God will not ask me to give more than I have.

And now for some pictures:

The whole group at our retreat! I forgot what our motivation for this picture was.

Janet, Katie, and I during a photo shoot!

Our beautiful retreat site!

Credits for this post go to: Dr. Cynthia Rigby, SHYC 2011 Keynote speaker, and (thanks for always having a great concordance!)