Part four of my five part series entitled “Who Do You Love?”
Lucky for us, we have a third kind of love, agape. This is the kind of love that allows for reunions with loved ones in the future. God’s saving grace ensures that we will see our loved ones again in heaven.
This is the love that God has offered us. It is divine love, which is an unconditional love. It has no strings. It expects nothing in return. It does not need love in return. It is simply love freely given. Agape is the word for love that is used over and over again in the New Testament. Whereas eros is worldly or material in nature, agape is divinely inspired and powered by faith.
To explain it quite simply, agape is unconditional love.
Agape is based on Jesus’ sacrifice and our acceptance of this through faith. Agape comes to us from God. God wraps himself around us in his cloak of loving fatherhood. It is an intimate individual relationship with each one of us. God’s love is unconditional. It is eternal. Love, to God, should be given to everyone in equal and universal measure.
God’s love is meant for everyone. Remember Jesus’ words:
Mark 12:30-31 – the greatest commandment:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength transcends the physical nature of eros and the fleeting nature of Philia. Agape absorbs both of these forms of love and it builds on them, pushing for a complete, selfless, unconditional form of love that should be freely given to everyone.
This kind of love doesn’t keep score. It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t check to see if the recipient is popular, cool, smart or funny. Agape is meant for everyone. I’m glad for this kind of love because I’m not popular, cool, smart or funny.
Paul’s order, in 1 John 4 is as follows:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We are to love one another in the same way that God loves us. This isn’t just a physical form of love or a form of love based on shared benefits. It is a love based on pureness of intention and a caring and unselfish spirit.
Let’s look at this in a bit more detail:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Love comes from God. This love is divine love. Everyone who experiences love expresses it in a way that is pleasing to God. And, because you love, you also relate with God, because you’re sharing the essence of God. You can’t give what God gave you without interacting with God.
And further, if you don’t love, then you couldn’t possibly know God, because God is about love. And if you’re not sharing love, then you’re not right with God.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Alright… so, you want to know what love is? Well, here’s how God showed his love to us. He sacrificed his one and only son so that we might live through him. This selfless sacrifice for the betterment of us is what love is about. Love is selfless. It is unconditional. It applies to each and every one of us. God doesn’t expect something from us first. He gave it to us. Free of charge. All we’ve got to do is reach out and accept it. What a wonderful gift God has given us.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
And finally, because God loved us, then we must pass this on to others. We are obligated to share this gift from God. We can’t just keep it to ourselves. We must get out there and spread this selfless, unconditional love that comes from God with who? With everybody else.
And when we share this love with others, God appears. God is with us when we love those around us. In loving one another, we become God’s agents, effectively saying hi for God to those that need it.
I think that’s incredible. When we love our neighbour, we are giving them a glimpse of the divine love of our creator.
But who should we love? Should we love those people that fall under the category of “Philia”? Is it enough to love our family, friends and co-workers? Or is there more to it than that?
Jesus said it is easy to love those that love you:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven;
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
But… is this possible? Are we able to love those that are against us? This is where the challenge comes in. Agape isn’t easy. It isn’t fair weather love. It doesn’t come and go as your feelings change. Agape is unconditional. It doesn’t judge. It doesn’t categorize people into lists of cool, smart, popular or funny. Agape is consistent with all people. It provides dignity, respect and compassion to everyone. This is what God asks of us.
Coming up next: Part 5: How do we provide unconditional love?