What makes love so radical? One of the greatest challenges issued for the Christian life is to love other people. Jesus gives clear direction and expectations on this issue. Christians are commanded to love other people and share the love of Christ with those around them. The most powerful words on the topic of love come from Jesus Himself.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly 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 truly 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. John 21:15-17
Why does Jesus ask Peter if he loves Him three different times?
Some say that the three times concur with the number of times Peter denied Jesus. Others say that this has to do with a Roman tradition of questioning soldiers three times before they went to battle. Some believe that this has to do with the Trinity. Jesus asks once for the Father, Himself and the Holy Spirit. There are a number of theories about the reason and any of them could be correct. However, we may be making the issue more complicated than really necessary.
In Biblical literature, whenever someone wanted to emphasize a point they made the statement more than once. The Biblical writers say that God is Holy, Holy, Holy not because it sounds good but because it brings incredible emphasis to the fact that God is holy. When Jesus asks this question of Peter, he changes it a little each time but is asking essentially the same question.
What was the point? Jesus wants to challenge Peter to a lifestyle of love. Jesus needed to challenge Peter’s mindset. Jesus needed to change Peter’s perspective. Jesus is calling Peter to the radical life he left behind.
The point is so simple that we often miss it. Love is the essence of living for Jesus. Love is not a feeling but instead it is a behavior. There is no way for Jesus to give a command about emotions or feelings. Jesus is telling Peter how to behave. Love is action.
Because love is an action or a behavior, there can be a command
– Love is a choice
Just like every other action or behavior that we have, it comes down to choice. Each person is ultimately responsible for their own actions and behaviors. No one else can take the blame or the responsibility.
– Love is a commitment
Behaving in a loving manner towards others is a commitment. There are days when we might not like our spouse or other people. We can still make the choice to love them. Love is action and it is the essence of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13. If we are going to behave in a loving manner it requires us to do what Paul suggests are the characteristics of love.
We are to be patient and kind. We are not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self seeking, not easily angered, not keeping score of wrongdoing, not delighting in evil but rejoice in right. We seek to protect, trust, hope and persevere. These are the actions of a lifestyle of love.
– Love is a challenge
This may sound simple and in reality it is simple. However, it is at times painfully difficult. There are people whom we do not want to love. The command is to act in a right manner toward everyone.