A plethora of words exists to describe love—at least among the ancient Greeks. How do you love?
Is it passionate (eros)? Platonic (philia)? Is it a feeling you have for family members (storge) or for yourself (philautia)? Are you flirty (ludus) or obsessive (mania)?
Yesterday, you likely thought about love in a romantic sense or you reflected on the affection you have for friends and family. You bought Valentine’s Day cards and gifts, booked romantic get-aways, or reserved tables at favorite restaurants.
But I’d wager agape love never crossed your mind.
The Absence of Agape
Agape is the highest form of love … and certainly the most difficult to live out. It’s the opposite of the hatefulness that dominates our society today. Need examples? Here are but a few:
- Don’t like someone’s political and religious
beliefs? Call that person a hater. A bigot. Homophobe or racist.
- Don’t agree with someone’s lifestyle choice?
Condemn … self-righteously as if your choices and behavior are above reproach.
The lack of agape love manifests daily, resulting in intractable division, broken relationships, and, yes, loathing and disrespect for those who don’t look, act, and believe like you or me.
How do you love? And why would you listen to those who incite discord?
I ask myself this all the time.
What is It?
So, what does agape mean?
The word defines a selfless, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure love that gives freely, without demanding something in return. Those exhibiting agape would never be possessive or jealous, controlling or manipulative.
It isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice and manifests through action. Examples include Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for the sins of the world and his exhortation that we love our enemies even when they attack us.
First Corinthians 13:4-7 describes it well:
“Love Is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
How do you love?
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah … So How Does This Relate to Me?
Agape is a central tenet in the New Testament and prescribes how Christians should view humanity. But unsurprisingly, Christians wrestle with putting agape in action.
They often rant about politicians—an easy target—or bemoan changing cultural mores. They struggle with the concept of “hating the sin, but loving the sinner,” and therefore, must remind themselves that while they don’t have to accept certain behaviors or attitudes, they can’t judge and condemn either.
That’s not their job.
Theirs is to treat others the way they want to be treated.
Now, I know some of you may have no grounding in faith. But shouldn’t agape principles apply to you too? Shouldn’t we all strive to respect and give more freely to others who aren’t like us? Wouldn’t it be a better world?
How do you love?