Lost in the translation of a famous conversation is the difference between two Greek words for love.  Agape is the word for love described in 1 Corinthians 13.  It is unconditional and willing to sacrifice for the good of the one loved.  Philo is the kind of brotherly love or caring that may guide our actions, but is much less willing to endure all things. This is the way I see the conversation between Simon Peter and Jesus on the shore of Lake Galilee in John 21, using “love” for agape and “care” for philo.

Simon, do you love me more than any one else does?  [Remember you claimed once that you did?]

Jesus, you know that I care for you.

Simon, do you love me. [I’ll drop the comparison to others.  Do you love me with the same sacrificial, unconditional love that I have shown for you?]

Jesus, you know that I care for you.

Simon, do you care for me?

Yes, Jesus, you know that I care for you. [Wait. What happened here?  You know that I cannot live up to your standards of love, but you love me anyway?]

Simon, follow me.

 As Simon Peter I cry “LIFE! I can’t live up to this expectation to love!  I know I said I could.  I said I would.  But I can’t!  I tried.  I failed.  I just can’t do it. I am too weak. But I still care.

 And to my great relief I hear, “I know, child of the earth.  I have known that all along.  Still, that kind of love I give to you freely.  I love you as you are.  Come with me for I will always love you unconditionally.”

 When we fail to live up to expectations, even our own expectations of ourselves, we may feel that no one can still love us.  Yet, the Living One does love us in full awareness of our failures.

When we feel the most unlovable, when we need it the most, God’s love is there for us. Love is a wonder!

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