In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard notes that Jesus uses a different word for “love” than Peter does in John 21.
Jesus asks Peter twice if he loves him, and while doing so he uses the word agapas, which signifies the deepest form of love. Peter responds with “Yes, of course Lord, you know I love you” but Peter uses the word philo, which is a lesser kind of friendship based love.
What’s interesting here is that Jesus switches to philo the third time. Willard writes, “In other words he accepted the level where Peter was.”
That’s big. It’s also big that Jesus goes on to entrust Peter with the responsibility of feeding his sheep and building his church.
God has a habit of meeting us where we’re at, which is often embarrassingly way off-base. Peter didn’t love Jesus the way Jesus loved Peter. Not even close. That was clear from Peter’s denial by the fire and response by the water.
Yet Jesus reinstated him.
This should fill us with great hope. It’s a reminder that God’s love for us doesn’t depend on us. He reaches us where we’re at and then invites us to move forward.
Newsflash: God knows you don’t love him as much as he loves you, and he’s okay with that. Not okay in an uncaring sense, but okay in a “I’m God, you’re not, and I can work with that” sort of way.
Does he want our love for him to grow? Of course. But he doesn’t wait around for that to happen before extending his perfect, abundant, out of this world, unbelievable love to us. He did that on the cross and he does it everyday.
Have you blown it? Join the club. Know that you don’t measure up? Yep, me too. Feel like you’re disqualified to serve Jesus? We all are. Except that his perfect love and grace is bigger than all of that and he enlists us anyways. Not on our own merit, but on his.
Again, this is a big deal. The implications are staggering. It means:
1. We can be honest with God about where our love for him falls short and know that he won’t condemn us.
2. We can be confident that God’s love is big enough to meet us in our shortcomings and lead us onward to where we need to be.
3. Even when we blow it, God still wants to use us to be and build his church.
Who do you know who needs to hear this today?