I barely know enough Spanish to order takeout from Taco Bell. But I attend a Spanish Bible study anyhow. Spunky of me, eh?
I can’t say I track with a lot of what the others talk about. I can read fairly well, but listening and speaking are still tough. Nevertheless a couple of weeks ago in our study of John, er, I mean Juan 21, a bit of conversation caught my attention. The other women were discussing the way Jesus restored Peter after his three-time denial.
—Simón, hijo de Juan, ¿me amas más que éstos?
—Sí, Señor, tú sabes que te quiero —contestó Pedro.
Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” And Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
But here’s what caught my attention: in Spanish, Peter uses a different word for “love” than the word Jesus used. Amar, Jesus’s word, means “to love.” Querer, Peter’s word, means “to want, like, have affection for.” Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?” and Peter replied, in essence, “Yes, Lord, I like you. I have affection for you.”*
The exchange happens a second time, just like the first.
—Simón, hijo de Juan, ¿me amas?
—Sí, Señor, tú sabes que te quiero.
To Peter’s hurt and dismay, Jesus asks yet a third time. In English, Jesus is quoted as asking the same question as time number 2: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” But in Spanish, notice the difference:
—Simón, hijo de Juan, ¿me quieres?
—Señor, tú lo sabes todo; tú sabes que te quiero.
In His third round of questioning, Jesus scales it back. Instead of asking the harder question, “Do you love me?” (unconditionally, sacrificially), He asks Peter an easier one: “Do you like me? Do you want Me as your friend?”
After class, my bilingual friend gave me her take on it. Jesus knows us inside and out, she explained. He wants us to be honest with Him. Whereas previously Peter had boasted of a love for Jesus that he couldn’t live up to, this time Peter was finally being honest. “I like you, Jesus. I want to be Your friend. But I’ve proven that I don’t agape You. When it came down to it, I didn’t love You enough to stand firm under pressure. My love for You falls short of what You deserve.”
So, in compassion, Jesus reached down to Peter’s weakness. Okay, then, Peter. I know that you’re made of dust. I know how hard it is to be faithful under pressure. So I’ll meet you where you are. Do you like Me, Peter?”
As I pondered the Spanish words and my friend’s interpretation of the passage, I recalled Psalm 51:6 which says that God desires truth in our innermost beings. God doesn’t require spiritual perfection. He just asks for honesty and humility. That’s what Jesus was after with Peter. And that, in the presence of Jesus’s love and grace, is what restored Peter.
That’s how I want to relate with God, too.
God, I can’t hide anything from You anyhow. You know my heart. So help me to be completely honest and humble with You. Thank You that You don’t require me to be something I’m not. Help me to grow up into the kind of love and faith You deserve. And in the meantime, thank You for accepting me just as I am.
*The original Greek uses two different words as well, agapao (unconditional, sacrificial love) and phileo (friendship, affection). Because the Spanish language has different words to express the idea of love, the Spanish Bible carries nuances that the English Bible does not.