I Heart You, Friend!

Originally published Wednesday, 15 January 2014.

Life is a journey. I can say this with full confidence now.

It took many years of obscurity to bring me to this place as a published author. I write to you as a broken individual who is full of God’s grace and hope. I am a walking miracle trying each day to walk in the Spirit.

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland" (Isaiah 43:19, NIV).

One of the verses God uses to encourage us through tough transitions is Isaiah 43:19 (above). Each time you read that verse you can know for certain that God is preparing the way. No one ever wants to be the receiver of bad news. No one likes to suffer. No one. And yet God allows us to suffer anyway. Why? So we can rejoice. It sounds like something twisted, but it’s not.

When was the last time you forgave someone?

I’m guessing it was because of something bad that happened to you. God knows. Don’t be afraid. Every day, God is in the process of doing something new, and if we’re too concerned with past failures, present circumstances, or future fears we’ll miss out. Life is a journey, suffering matters, and God will see you through.

I’m reminded of the story of Jesus and Peter. Jesus loved Peter very much, despite his rash decision-making, impetuousness, and crazy talking mouth.

Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75).

Sometimes you make wrong choices knowing full well what you’re doing—and what the consequences are likely to be. Like Peter, you just can’t stop. You whine, complain, curse, or yell at others while deep own we’re a wreck. Emotionally you’re all over the place. Nothing makes sense. Maybe you’re the one wrestling with choices from the past. You’re in deep sorrow. You’re not sure what to do or how to even begin to live again. Maybe you’re bitter. The past didn’t treat you well and you’re wondering how to get even with those who caused you to suffer. No matter what the pain of the past, God offers His hand.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus warned Peter that he would one day deny Him. Peter was horrified at the idea. “No way!” he said. “I’ll never deny you.”

…But then he did. He denied that he had ever known Jesus…three times.

Ouch. Never make a deal you can’t keep. Peter broke his word even after God gave him a warning. How do you make sense of that? But the story’s not over. I love what happens later. After Jesus had risen from the dead he was eating and chilling with his disciples. He took Peter aside during breakfast and asked him a tough question. He said, “Do you love Me?” (You can read the whole story in John 21:15-19).

Now, unfortunately we only have one word for love in the English language. In Greek there are three words. The first is eros, which means romance or sexual love. The second, phileo means a brotherly love. It suggests deep affection, like you have for your closest friends. Agape love is the strongest of all. It can’t be earned but can only be freely given. It’s a love that comes without expectations. This is the kind of love Christ showed for us when He died on the cross.

When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, he was talking about agape—the granddaddy of all love. Peter says, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.” Sounds pretty good and nice…but they’re not talking about the same thing. Jesus is asking, “Do you agape me?”

And Peter responds, “I phileo you.” He’s basically saying, “I heart you, friend.”

That’s not what Jesus wants. It’s only phileo love. Jesus asks Peter again, “Do you agape me?”

“I phileo you,” says Peter.

Jesus asks one more time. But this time he changes it up. “Peter, do you phileo me?” he says. “Do you heart me, friend?”

And Peter says, “Yes!

I love how God knows how much we fail and screw up miserably.

And yet he sees us in our pain and meets us where we are. He wants and tries for the best in each one of us. He knows us personally enough to know when we’re not giving our all, or when we’re not even capable of loving. What a fantastic day of questions for Peter and Jesus. I’m sure they both went away thinking, Phew! That’s a good place to start!

Question: Like Peter, do you struggle with loving God? Do you phileo or agape Jesus? Why?

*My favorite excerpt from my new book, Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me (Harvest House, 2013). You can purchase a copy here.

[Photo: Aih. via photopin cc]