You may have noticed how people who do not believe in God still gravitate toward a “theory of everything,” some meta-narrative that explains all that exists. Even in physics the Higgs-Boson theory, which answers the fundamental question of why particles have mass, is jokingly called the “god-particle.” Nearly everyone gravitates toward some single, unifying principle that makes sense of everything — even when they don’t know why they gravitate, or why it seems so sensible.
We know why, of course. But rather than belief in a unifying concept, we are in relationship with the One “in whom all things hold together” (Col 1:17), and his first question to us is “do you love me?” Our answer to that is what unifies and gives shape to everything else in our lives. When Peter is asked that question, he’s facing a complex, threatening, and rapidly-changing world. Still, Jesus asks him just that one question (Jn 21:15-17), and when he answers, “you know that I love you,” Jesus is satisfied.
It’s an interesting answer, by the way. Peter uses a more tender, affectionate term for love than Jesus uses in his question, as if to say, “it’s deeper than that.” But the syntax is also interesting. “You know that I love you,” is an answer as well as a statement. He’s saying, “you know you don’t need to be asking me this,” or, even more compelling I think, he’s asking his own question: “why are you asking me this?”
Jesus is asking Peter that one question because Peter needs to know, a) he still dwells in the love of Christ, even after his failure of denial, and, b) his love for Jesus is the one, necessary premise of everything he is about to face — and all hell is about to be unleashed against him (as he eventually recognizes – 1 Pet 5:8-11). Peter is not the only one driven, sustained, and informed by a singular love for God: Moses reveals the essence of his soul in Deut 6:4, Abraham, by offering Isaac, is really answering the same question put to Peter (“do you love me more than these”), Samuel is nearly primal in his undivided heart, David is consumed in the manner of Shakespearean lovers, Paul says simply “we love because he first loved us” and “the love of Christ compels us” (1 Jn 4:19; 2 Cor 5:14).
We are trying to reach the world with the true theory of everything, which you might call its one true love. It is your love for God alone that contains all the elements the world longs for. If you seek to love men with a heart that is not first dominated by and filled with love for God, you offer them nothing more than what the world already offers. At this moment, this world is not in need of love forged in your own heart. It needs love forged in the heart of the One who is love itself, it needs a transcendent love, a love that will pour out its soul to death that transgressors might be raised to life (Isa 53:12). Freely you have received; freely give (Mt 10:8).
I oppose the political realm when understood by Christians as its own parallel kingdom, or as a surrogate for the power and working of the Holy Spirit. But as a vocation in Christ, a calling in which servants of Christ are doing the work of the Kingdom, political work is just as crucial as all other work. One of the workers I admire most — and someone who embodies love for God — is also an old friend, Steve Oban. Steve was the one who recently and successfully fought in Olympia for churches to gather to produce livestream services. He is also the principal voice in the Legislature defending religious freedom and right to worship, and has been attacked relentlessly for defending biblical sexuality. He is currently in a tight race, seeking to keep his seat in the Washington State Senate.