DO YOU LOVE ME MORE THAN THESE?
Earlier today, I was thinking about a particular event in the life of John Calvin. John Calvin was one of the major reformers of the 14th and 15th centuries who founded Calvinism.
After many failed attempts by John Calvin to secure a wife for himself (who would also be a good supporter of his ministry), he later settled for Idelette. She was a widow; she had lost her husband, who was a leader of Anabaptists but later became a member of Calvinism. After the death of her husband, John decided to marry her. Idelette, according to John, was a woman of deep spiritual conviction and highly intelligent. She was full of vessels, and even through the entirety of her illness, “she was never troublesome.”
About her death, John wrote, “I have been bereaved of the best companion of my life, of one who, had it been so ordered, would not only have been the willing sharer of my indigence but even of my death.” During her life, she was a faithful helper of my ministry.
— John Calvin, Letter to Pierre Viret, 1549
Idelette had two children with her late husband (John Stordeur), but her union with John couldn’t provide any surviving children. She had the first child born immature, who died two weeks later; she had multiple daughters after that, but all died as infants, so they didn’t really have children together, but then another [terrible] event happened. Idelette was losing her life to tuberculosis. It was a very sad moment in their lives.
But something worthy of emulation that came to mind was how, as she was dying, John Calvin tried to emphasize his loyalty and commitment to her children and said to her, “This does not relieve me of my responsibility to your children.” To this, Idelette replied, “I already entrusted them to God, and I know that whatever has been entrusted to God can never suffer in your hands.” She was so sure of and comforted by the fact that anything pertaining to the things of God, in the hands of John, can never suffer. She knew John Calvin so well that he was someone whose priority was God and everything that mattered to God; there was no doubt in her mind that he took them so seriously.
Thinking over this, I remember the word of Jesus to Peter in the book of John, chapter 21 (verse 15). After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to them (even though Peter had gone back to fishing after the event of the crucifixion), but on this fateful day, Jesus appeared to them again and confronted him with such a mind-boggling question. Simon, do you love me more than these? Simon replied “yes” as an answer, but Jesus didn’t seem satisfied with his [unselfconscious] answer as the question was repeatedly asked. Simon made it known to Jesus that he loved Him, but asking the question multiple times made him uncomfortable. This could be because Jesus needed him to come to the realization of the kind of love He demands from Simon Peter, and what it means to be in love with God [and humans].
On another occasion, the Bible talks about Jesus in the house of Mary, the sister of Lazarus. John 11:35-36. Jesus was away when Lazarus died. After 4 days, when Jesus arrived at the scene, the scripture records that the body was already stinking. When he saw the people in their state of mourning, the scripture says, “Jesus wept, and the people who were there said, Oh, see how he really loved him.” That is to say that there is a way our emotions, actions, and empathy tell the story of love. The way you share my story with people, the way you talk about me, and the things you say about me go a long way toward revealing whether you really love me.
In our today’s world, we have many things we define as “love,” forgetting that love is an action, not only a statement.
Are you sure you really love me?
If you say you love me, is it because of what I can do for you? Do you love me in case the day comes when you will need my help? Do you love me because of the values that you derive from me? “Are you using me, or do you love me?” is the question that sometimes we need to ask ourselves when we claim to love someone.
“Love” is an action word; even Jesus needed to confirm and reaffirm that Simon Peter was aware of the statement he was making to Him. We say things sometimes about which we have little knowledge. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Greek culture has different words for the concept of love, depending on the person involved. There is different love for different purposes and for different people, depending on the kind of position they occupy in our lives.
Mind you, God’s kind of love is the best kind of love. The best love that we can have is to love God and to love people the way God loves them. When we love people the way God wants us to, it brings a new perspective to our love life. The whole concept of love changes. The way you see me and my challenges changes. How you interpret my stories and the circumstances that surround my birth or my childhood experiences takes on a new form in your mind. This is love with a strong base. The place of love where we don’t define or address people by their [past] mistakes or personal struggles. A place where, like Idelette, people around us are convinced that, like John Calvin, we do not only claim to love the Lord, but we are also in love with everything that has His name and identity on it. That place of testimony where people can say, “This brother, this sister, they love the Lord, and we know for sure that anything of God in their hands cannot suffer.”
“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer” (2 Cor. 5:16).
Meditate on this.
Good, James I. (1901, 2007). Famous Women of the Reformed Church. Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books. ISBN 1-59925-123-X