God’s love is unconditional. He loves us despite of who we are. He loves us only because of His grace. Nothing holds Him back from pouring out His love to us.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus asked Peter.
“Yes, Lord; you know that I love you,” said Peter.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me? ”Again, asked Jesus.
“Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Responded Peter.
“Do you love me?” For the third time Jesus asked Peter.
And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
It took Peter three times to realize that Jesus was asking for a sacrificial love to follow Him. Peter’s first two responses to Jesus’ question were conditional for he used the word “philos” for love rather than “agape.” “Philos” represents brotherly love which is limited by our inability to love and to fully lay down ourselves for others. It is limited because we are tempted to calculate our own benefit and comparing how much we give with how much we receive from others. In contrast to our human constraint, “agape” is unconditional and unchangeable. This is the love that our heavenly father gives us. It was because of this love that Jesus died on the cross for us, without negotiating with His Father. Far before we had the ability to love God, God had already loved us. We love because He has loved us first. This is true and it will always hold true. Now, we should ask ourselves: are we responding to Jesus’ unconditional love with our selfish and stingy love? What is holding us back from gladly laying down our lives to follow Jesus?
Let’s put this conversation between Jesus and Peter in its context. Jesus has already revealed to his disciples two times by this time. However, Peter said to other disciples, “I am going fishing,” which was their former way of life before following Jesus. While Jesus has revealed himself to His disciples after resurrection, His disciples did not have enough faith to evangelize. Rather, they chose to revert back to their former living. They decided to forget about the past three years when their life has been transformed by the living God who became flesh. However, God did not allow them to successfully abandon their faith. When they tried to cast the net into the water, they could not catch any fish. Their work was futile without God. Their work was tiring but void of fruit. Such futility will be the experience for whoever lacks faith in God and relies on themselves. This was a prime example of the conditional love that Peter answered to Jesus, for he wanted Jesus to provide him with what he needed before he could take up the cross. It was understandable, however, of why Peter and other disciples may have so little faith despite of their first-hand experience with Jesus. Perhaps, they were like us, seeing a plethora of people who have led an enviable life on earth. The glamorous and comfortable lifestyle may tempt them and us to question ourselves: why do we need God? why is our unconditional love to Him does not give us imminent reward? Amazingly, when they were questioning themselves or us questioning ourselves, Jesus came and provide the answer and He sent the holy spirit to remind us, once again.
“Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. Our life in Jesus lacks nothing, for He provides and gives more than we need. God works in mysterious ways. Who are we to question His plans and ways? While God has made his attribute so clear in the Bible, how can we still be hesitant to say, “Jesus I love you, unconditionally.” As a time to prepare ourselves for Easter, the glorious celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, we should pray for stronger faith to enable us to follow Jesus beyond what we can but solely does what He asks of us. Because the ultimate reward is in heaven and the earth is nothing but a stop by of our eternal life, let’s not lose sight of what is to come and what should be our focus for our lives.