This is going to sound totally silly, but when I was a girl I was a little silly! My mother would send me down the street to the store. On my way, there was a beautiful wall of shrubs. As I walked, I would get a few inches away from the branches and talk to them. I’d say something like, “Oh, look at you! You are budding! You are so pretty!” You see, my mother told me that if I talked to the plants, they would grow! So, I was only to happy to do my part to help the earth by talking to the shrubs! When I got older, much older, I learned something else causes things to grow….love.
I was reminded of this through a beautiful gold wooden picture frame with a dried flower inside and five little words written next to it. “All Things Grow With Love.” I’ve had this picture for almost 19 years. It was given to my husband and I as an engagement present. At first glance, it’s a nice sentiment. But the more I get to know my Savior and His love, the more I know it is true!
I never really knew what love looked like, growing up as a child in an abusive situation. I was raised by a single parent who hurt me. So, my whole learning experience came from a place of brokenness. Being broken and unchurched led to a lot of heartache as I searched for love in my life. It wasn’t until God called me out of darkness that I began to learn what real love was.
Jesus is not just my God and King, He is my example of HOW to love and be loved. Afterall, “…God is love.” 1John 4:8b
Once while being tested by an “expert” on the Law, Jesus was asked what was written in the Law and how He would read it? “He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27 Wait! What about the ten commandments? Aren’t those the law? Of course they are! I was taught that if I love God, I won’t break the first four and if I love my neighbor as myself, I won’t break the last six! In a perfect world I would wrap those words up in a pretty box and be all set…right? Wrong!
The truth of the matter is that while God loves you and I perfectly, we do not reciprocate the same love back, although we do try.
I think of Peter, the beloved disciple of Jesus, proclaiming his undying loyalty and love for Jesus one minute and denying him three times the next. (Luke 22:54-62) Peter loved Jesus for sure. But when Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, it went kind of like a lesson in the five love languages.
“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus is referring to “Agapeo” love. This is the kind of love that draws a deep commitment from the giver, it is highly moral, faithful, and an act of the will.
It is spoken of in 1Corinthians 13… “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1Cor 13:1-8
Peter responds, “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Peter was expressing “Phileo” love, a brotherly kind of love. Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Jesus is again asking about that “Agape” love. He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Again, Peter expresses brotherly love. Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” This time Jesus was asking about “Phileo” love…brotherly love. Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” Peter confessed, He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Again, brotherly love. Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. John 21:15-17
The purpose of this conversation was two-fold. On the one hand, it was restorative to Peter. Just as Peter had denied Jesus three times prior, now he confessed his love for Jesus three times.
However, in that confession, Peter had to admit he wasn’t yet capable of “agape” love, only brotherly love. He probably never experienced agape love! Have you experienced agape love? I dare say, none can even begin to, until we come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Jesus, being Jesus... met Peter where he was at emotionally. There was plenty of room for growth. And Peter did grow. This was the man that God used to build His church and who would be crucified upside down for his dedication and commitment to God!
So, let us ask ourselves, what kind of love does God want from us? It would be agape love for sure. Are we there yet? Maybe not. But God loves us enough, to meet us where we are at and teach us about this kind of love, by loving us perfectly.
Though our reciprocal love ebbs and flows like the ocean tides; God’s love is constant. He always loves us with agape love! So this Valentines week, let us seek to learn how to truly love God and others with all we can, and remember “ All Things Grow With Love” that goes for plants and us! Happy Valentine’s Day!