Love VS. Love

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Kristi here.

I love chocolate. I love my husband. I don’t love these things in the same way, though. It’s one of the frustrating things about the English language. We have the word like and we have the word love and there’s nothing in between. I used to think we should introduce the word “loke” into our vocabulary to establish a level between like and love. Then I could say I loke chocolate and I love my husband.




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We toss the word love around a lot in the United States. That can’t be said for every other country in the world. I had a friend from England once that got a bit fed up with our usage of it. When someone said, “I love chocolate” my friend would make a face and say “Why don’t you marry it then?” Not terribly original, but it gets the message across.

The thing is we use the same word when we say we love God, and I think that’s a problem. We have just equated God with chocolate. That’s not good. When we take a concept, like love, and weaken it, we begin to lose the power that word can have.

Photo by Jen Smith

How many times have you seen someone say something like this in a book or a movie: “I love him. Well, I don’t love love him. I love him like a brother or a friend or in that I love my dog kind of way. Not that he’s a dog, I just think of them the same.”

Okay, so the part about the dog isn’t ubiquitous, but you get my point.

Jesus had several words for love when He walked the earth. Unfortunately, this distinction is often lost when we translate the Greek into English. Take the following passage from John 21 verses 15-17.

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Feed My lambs,” He told him. A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Shepherd My sheep,” He told him. He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.” “Feed My sheep,” Jesus said.

Two different forms of the word love are used in this passage. Agape and phileo. Agape referred to deep, true, unconditional love while phileo was used more for general love more akin to loyalty and affection. If we take those differences into account, the passage above reads more like this:

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I am your friend.” “Feed My lambs,” He told him. A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I am your friend.” “Shepherd My sheep,” He told him. He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, are you My friend?” Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Are you My friend?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I am your friend.” “Feed My sheep,” Jesus said.

Peter was saddened because he had to own up to the fact that he wasn’t giving Jesus the true love that his savior wanted.

What kind of love are we offering Jesus? Do we love Him like chocolate? Our dogs? Our family? Or are we giving Him the ultimate love that He offered to us? Let’s start thinking about the meanings behind our usage of the word “love” so that when we say “I love you, God” we really mean it.