What is Agape Love?
There was a song that came out a few years ago that had the lyrics in it: "What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It's the only thing that there's just too little of." The universal need of all men, women, and children is for unconditional love. There is another, more recent song, that asks the question: "Who will love me for me? Not for what I have done, or what I will become."
This kind of love that doesn't depend on our performance, but is a choice by the lover to care for us no matter what is the idea behind the biblical word agape (ah-ga-pay). This is the main word used in the New Testament for love.
I. Four Greek Words for Love
The Ancient Greeks used four words for love. They each have a different meaning. These words include:
1. Philia- ( Fill-ee-uh) This means close friendship or brotherly love. The word and other forms of it are found throughout the New Testament. Christians are frequently asked to love fellow Christians in this way. For example Paul says in Romans 12:10 : "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor."
2. Storge- (Stor-gay) Storge is family love, like the bond among mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. An example of this is the natural love and affection of a parent for their child. Although the word doesn't appear in the Bible, many examples of family love are found in Scripture.
3. Eros- (E-ros) This is the word for the sexual, physical love between two people. Once again, the word doesn't appear in Scripture, but the concept certainly does. The Old Testament book Song of Solomon is a good example. The Bible reserves sexual love solely for the husband and wife in marriage.
4. Agape- (ah-ga-pay) Agape is a selfless, sacrificial love. It is the highest of the four loves. This word and variations of it are found throughout the New Testament. This is the type of love that comes from God.
II. God is Agape Love
The Bible says that agape is of God, and from God because His very nature is love itself. I John 4:8 affirms this fact when it says:
"He that does not love does not know God for God is love."
This means that everything that the Lord does flows from His love. However, it is not the sappy sentimental kind. He loves because it is the very expression of His being. He loves the unlovable and undeserving. We did absolutely nothing to merit God's favor. And, being sinners, we could never do anything that could ever cause Him to love us.
There is a story told of a certain Medieval monk who one day proclaimed to his congregation that he would preach on love the following week. When the time arrived and as the darkness fell and the light ceased to come through the cathedral windows on the week of his sermon, the people gathered together to hear the monk speak. They were in the dark and the speaker lighted a single candle. With the candle, he shined the light on the crucifix on the wall.
He first lighted the crown of thorns on the Savior's head. Next, he showed them the two wounded hands and His feet. Finally, the monk showed the spear wound on our Lord's side. As a hush fell upon the congregation, the monk blew out the candle and left the chancel. There was nothing more that was left to say!
This story illustrates that God's agape love was shown best when He sent His only Son to earth to die on the cross for our sins. Ephesians 2:1 says that we were dead in trespasses and sins. Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 that "God demonstrated his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
That is one of the characteristics of this type of love. It is always demonstrated in some way. And it is sacrificial. It puts the needs of the one loved ahead of our own needs or desires. Also, it is not based on feelings. Rather it is an act of the will, or a joyful resolve to act on behalf of the object of our love.
We were the objects of the lavish love of God. He unselfishly acted on our behalf.
III. God's Children and Agape Love
The agape love that we are talking about here does not come naturally to humans. Rather it must come from its source, God Himself. Our natural sinful tendency is to put ourselves, our needs and desires, ahead of everything and everyone else. But when God enters our lives, He gives us a new nature, one capable of this kind of selflessness. Jesus now commands us who know Him:
"As I have loved you, you should also love one another" (John 13:34).
And the Lord even goes so far as to say that the way that the world will know that we are His disciples, is that we show agape love for one another (John 13:34,35). The Apostle John goes even farther by telling us that if we say that we love God and yet hate our brother, we are a liar (I John 4:20).
Love is part of the Fruit of the Spirit of God who indwells every believer (Galatians 5:22). As He begins to change us, conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ, others should be able to see us becoming more and more loving. If not, then they can rightfully question whether or not we have ever truly been saved.
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, the only way that you will ever be able to give true agape love is if you surrender your life to Him in faith. For those of us who claim the name of Christ, it is imperative that we ask Him to help us to demonstrate more and more love in our lives, both for Him and for those whom He has created. And if we ask for it, He will surely give us this petition, because it is what He desires of us in the first place.
Agape love is truly something that the world knows nothing about. However, at the same time, it is what it so desperately needs. May we thank God every day that He has demonstrated that selfless sacrifice to us on the Cross of Calvary so that we can have eternal life. And because of that thankfulness, let us go out and show God's love to those He puts in our path every day.
© 2012 Jeff Shirley