Sunday, January 31, 2010

Am I Lost Because If Find It Difficult to Love Them?

I was asked by a reader of my Sunday Messages, “How do I love someone I don't like, and if I can't love them does it mean I do not love God?” I decided to tackle this question because there are many Christians who find it difficult, if not down right impossible, to love those they don't like. We are told by John that, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.1John 4:8 John goes on to write that it is impossible to love a God you cannot see, if you do not love your earthly brothers. 1John 4:20 As Christians, we need to understand that if God loved the world and gave His only Son to become a propitiation of our sins, then we should also love one another. John 3:16 & 1John 4:10 So we wonder by reading such passages how we can love the way God loves us. Allow me to first give some background on the apostle known as John.

If you had known John when he was still following Jesus as a young man, you would be stunned by the transformation of his heart. I refer to the day that Jesus sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan town to prepare a place for them to lodge. They were told by the elders of the town they would not be welcomed and thus Christ and His disciples were turned away. This must not have sat too well with the two brothers James and John, because they asked Jesus for permission to call down Fire from Heaven to consume and destroy the city. Jesus not only denied their request but rebuked them for their evil hearts by pointing out what manner of spirit they were to be. Luke 9:51-57 This little exercise in hatred earned James and John the name Boanerges, which in Greek means, "Sons of Thunder". However, by the time John was an old man and had written his gospel, epistles and the revelation of Christ, we clearly see the Lord had done some major overhauling in him, because we now know John as the “Apostle of Love”.

There is another incident that we can look to for answers to this question. It was recorded by John in his gospel and it took place when Jesus revealed Himself to the apostles at the Sea of Tiberias. John 21:1-18 After they had eaten some fish the apostles caught, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Remember, Peter had denied Jesus three times when He was being mocked, beaten, and illegally tried for blasphemy. Matthew 26:69-75 Jesus was reminding Peter of his three denials by asking if he loved Him three times. John 21:15-18 One can only imagine the sinking feeling Peter had when Jesus asked the first time if he loved Him more then the rest, because it was when Jesus revealed that they would all abandon Him that Peter spoke vehemently saying, "If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" Mark 14:27-3

Now before I continue, it is important to understand that the English translation of the Scriptures hides a very telling part of the three questions by Jesus. The first two times Jesus asked if Peter loved Him, He used the Greek word “agape” for love, while Peter would only respond with the Greek word “phileo”. There are four different Greek words used for love, but for the purpose of this message I will deal only with the two, “agape” and “phileo”. “Agapê”, is a sacrificial kind of love that asks for nothing in return. This is what God showed us when in spite of our many character flaws and weaknesses He still loved us enough to sacrifice His only begotten Son to give us a chance at eternal life with Him. Now “phileo” is the kind of love you show a brother, not a brother in the sense of family, but in the sense of kinsmenship. This is also the root used in the word Philadelphia, thus the reason they call Philadelphia the City of Brotherly Love.

What John reveals to us here, is Peter admitting that he does not have it in him to show an “agape” or sacrificial love that Jesus is asking of him. However, the third time when Jesus asked Peter if he loves Him, He does so by using the level of love that Peter is at, “phileo”. When He does, Peter breaks down and tells Jesus, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." and Jesus then tells Peter;
"Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.John 21:17-18
What Jesus is telling Peter, is that He will work with the level of love that Peter confesses, and lets him know that a day will come when he will have that agape or sacrificial love in his heart. We know from the wittings of such early church leaders as Ignatius of Antioch, Dionysius, Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian and others that Peter would experience the kind of love Jesus asked of him when he was crucified in Rome by Nero. All one needed to do to save ones life was to deny Christ and worship the Roman's Gods or Nero as Lord, but Peter would do something he had failed to do when he was much younger. This time he would not deny his Lord. This time he would show his “agape” love for Christ and die for Him as Christ did for us.

So you see brothers and sisters, you may not yet have the capacity to love those whom you don’t like, but as Peter told Christ, “Lord, You know all things”. God knows where our hearts are and He knows where they will be in the future. Jesus promised to continue the good work He began in us when we accepted Him into our lives. Philippians 1:6 & Hebrews 12:2 If John and Peter could spend three years in the presence of God while displaying an anger that would destroy a city, or even still have a limited love that was far short of what God called for, well then my friends, I would just advise you to give it to Him in prayer, and He will work on that part in your life that finds it difficult to love those you dislike. For those who do not know Him I would ask you to also pray and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. I promise that if you are sincere in your request that He will give you a heart to know Him. Jeremiah 24:7 In time, you will see that He is true to His word; maybe one day you will even be surprised to find yourself sacrificing for someone you used to hate.

I pray that those who have ears to hear will hear His voice and call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

1 comment:

  1. very insightful as I am experiencing that challenge as we speak...-Gary Jacques