“He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” (ref John 21:16a)
In John 21, after Peter had denied Jesus three times, he was given the love test from Jesus. This is much more powerful than what you might think at first. Imagine if God, the eternal Creator, asked you that question “do you love Me?”. He already knows the answer, so any answer contrary to it would be a lie. So imagine what was going through Peter’s mind when Jesus asked him this. Peter actually said in V17 ““Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
But what Jesus was asking is if Peter really loved Him, not in just vain words such as we see on Valentines Cards or what people say flippiantly to each other, but to really think about the question of love and what that word really means. Peter had just denied Jesus 3 times, by this, Jesus was pointing out “Peter, you need to think more before you say ‘I love You'”, because love comes in the form of action, and denial is not one of them.
I am not picking on Peter, because many of us have been in Peter’s shoes. We may have said without thinking that we love God, but then have denied Him by sin, by our actions, by our words. Jesus wasn’t playing a game with Peter, He merely was asking Peter to examine that “love” Peter claimed to have, because it was less than perfect. In other words, it was humbling him before Peter was restored by Jesus. And I would think the other Apostles got the lesson as well as “Don’t just say you love Me, prove it by your actions, examine that love you profess”.
Think of those you truly love, what is the key ingredient with every one of them? They are someone who if removed from your life would leave an empty and giant hole. In your core, the love being “I really can’t see my life without this person”. If Jesus was removed from your life for example, how would that affect your life? If you honestly could not say “it would be an instantaneous devastation”, you probably don’t love Him like you may have thought you did.
Yes, there is a lot of sinners who profess to love Jesus, but put to the test Peter was given, would most likely fail in an instant. They can see their lives without Jesus in it, which demonstrates the words of “love” were in vain. They sounded good on the surface, but internally the love for Him was missing.
When Jesus said to become like children, He was speaking about this type of love. Children demonstrate inwardly and outwardly the love for their parents. They cannot see life without them being in it, they could not deny them. So when a child tells their parent “I love you”, it is not just a nice 3 word sentence, it is a truth they are professing.
Ask yourself, do you really love God? And with this, examine this love, be able to profess WHY you love Him, not as a cliche or as your church robotically declares, but as a God who you have a relationship with.