Agape and the Bible
The Best Until Last
In this series of different Greek words for our English word of 'love,' we have looked at Eros and the Bible, Phileo and the Bible, but we've saved the best until last: Agape love and the Bible.
Agape is the highest possible form of love; it is altruistic love, that is, it is the kind of love that shows unselfish concern and thoughtfulness for the needs and well-being of other people; it is God's unconditional love.
If we go back to the Old Testament and the time of Moses, we can learn much about how to live and love from the Ten Commandments that God gave His people so long ago. However, in the New Testament we find just one commandment from Jesus and that sums up all the others in one brief sentence:
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you" (John 13.34).
What wonderful love that is! Jesus loves us so much that He gave HIs life for us so we could be forgiven and made holy so that we can come close to our Heavenly Father who is so pure, and have fellowship with Him. When we believe and live that commandment of Jesus, we can have abundant life here on earth and when we die we will have everlasting life and be with our Father forever.
This time, I have been unable to find other words that are built on the word 'agape.' It stands alone as it is so special. However, the word itself can have other meanings:
Firstly, with a different pronunciation, it is agape:
- having the mouth wide open in astonishment
- wide open, like a gate
Secondly, and this is the one that we are concerned with here, and it is pronounced 'agapé'. It has two meanings:
- What we have described as altruistic love
- A meal the early Christians shared in fellowship together
This kind of love is the Greek agape and the wonder of it can leave us with mouths wide open, agape, in astonishment!
Jesus and Peter
Remember that puzzling story of Jesus asking Peter three times 'Do you love me?'
It is said that two different Greek words were used here: Twice Jesus asks Peter using 'agape', but Peter found this difficult to answer, and used 'phileo' in his reply. The third time Jesus used 'phileo' and Peter was able to answer this happily: Yes, he did love Jesus as an affectionate brother.
The Highest Kind of Love in the Bible
Agape describes divine love, the highest and purest kind of love in the Bible. It is a mature love when we take pleasure in replacing things in our lives, like selfishness, pride and possessions, with unselfishness, humility, generosity and putting others and their needs first.
The quoted commandment of Jesus is from John's Gospel. St. John is often known as 'the Apostle of love.' In his three letters further on in the New Testament we find even more about agape love, especially in 1 John:
- As God loves us, so we should love Him and one another.
- Our agape love is evidence of our love of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We learn from St. John that love without action is of little value; our agape love needs to be seen in the way we live our lives and share that love with others. When we obey God's law of love by doing His will and loving Him and one another, His Holy Spirit will come into our hearts and we will become more like Jesus.
May we, as Christians, obey that law, totally relying on God's enabling grace, so that His love in us is apparent in our truth, sincerity, humility, holiness.
© 2015 Bronwen Scott-Branagan