Bearing in mind who was asking him, Peter’s honesty is extraordinarily brave!
Here is the passage, with the Greek words for love in brackets:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agape) me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love (philia) you.” Jesus said, “feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agape) me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love (Philia) you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love (philia) me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love (philia) you.” (John 21:15-17 NIV)
My closest experience of this is, when asked whether I think or feel a certain way, I answer, ‘not yet’. Peter seems to be very brave and very honest by saying that he has feelings of deep fondness and affection towards Jesus, but he isn’t (yet) committing himself by declaring agape love. I like his bravery and honesty!
It’s incredibly tough to talk about our feelings, isn’t it? It’s tough to be honest with each other. I also find it tough being honest with Abba and Jesus about such things. My intention is to practice agape, but it’s hard.