About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Unreciprocated Love


There are two Greek words that are translated as love in our English New Testament.  The noun "agape" is love that is exhibited by sacrificing yourself for another, whether your sacrifice is reciprocated or not.  The noun "philos" is a free flowing exchange of love that is reciprocated between friends.  Both agape and philos are necessary for the good health of a meaningful relationship.   


Jesus' conversation with Peter (John 21:15 - 19) is interesting.  In our English text, Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him.  The Greek text is more explicit when it comes to our English word "love" in this passage.  The first two times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, the word "love" is translated from the Greek verb "agapeo" (sacrificial love).  The third time the word "love" is translated from Greek verb "phileo" (reciprocal or friendship love).  This tells me that Jesus desired both sacrificial love and reciprocal friendship love to be realized in His relationship with Peter.       


Jesus did not only desire Peter to sacrifice himself for Him.  He desired a free-flowing, reciprocal, friendly, loving relationship with Peter, and herein is our problem.  Our selfish human nature finds it difficult to express agape, sacrificial love, when our sacrifice is not reciprocated.  We prefer philos, reciprocal love between friends.  It's much easier to love those who love us in return.  How, then, do we respond to unreciprocated or unappreciated love? 


If the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of agape, lives in us as we claim, we should possess the needed Holy Spirit influenced self-security that enables us to not worry about unreciprocated love.  It is what Jesus continues to live with.  His life of selfless sacrifice is the ultimate, universal, act of love ever to be demonstrated in human history, and it is continually ignored and unappreciated.  I dare say that each one of us who claim to benefit from His act of agape do not appreciate it as He would like. 


The lesson I learn from Jesus' conversation with Peter is that both agape and philos are fundamental to the good health of all relationships, and, if the Spirit of agape lives within us, we can exhibit sacrificial love when it is not reciprocated. 


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