The word love describes a feeling of deep affection that comes in varying degrees of intensity. As human beings, we are born with a great need for love and affection.
The Bible talks about four types of love which are communicated through four greek words: Eros describes romantic love; storge means family love; Philia means brotherly love; and Agape which describes God’s divine love.
We’ll explore agape love, what it means, how it differs from the other kinds of love, and what the Bible teaches us about it.
What Is Agape Love?
Agape describes God’s immeasurable and incomparable love for mankind. It is the highest form of love in the Bible. It is a perfect and unconditional type of love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstances.
Agape love has been used frequently throughout the New Testament. It perfectly describes the love that Jesus Christ has for God and his followers.
Agape love goes beyond emotions. It is the kind of love that is given freely without expecting anything in return. It is a pure, selfless, willful, sacrificial love that always seeks the best for others.
The word agape is also used in its plural form(agapai) to describe a feast in the New Testament which was shared among early Christians (Jude1:12), (2 Peter 2:13). Some Christian denominational churches still observe the Agape love feast today.
Characteristics of Agape Love
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul described the characteristics of agape love perfectly(1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
- It is patient and kind;
- It is not jealous or conceited or proud;
- Love is not ill-mannered, selfish, or irritable
- It does not keep a record of wrongs;
- It is not happy with evil but is happy with the truth.
- Love does not give up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.
- Love is eternal
Example of Agape Love In The Bible
Agape love is usually used to describe the love that is of God and from God. “God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them.”(1 John 4:16). In this context, God does not just show love, He is love. He does everything out of love for His people. Not that we deserve it, but because that is who He is and He must stay true to his nature.
God’s love is best demonstrated when he sent his only Son to die so that we may live. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that everyone that believes in him may not die but have eternal life.”(John 3:16)
We may not deserve such kind of love. “But God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience, he brought us to life with Christ.”(Ephesians 2:4-5)
God’s agape love is like no other. It is unmerited, gracious, and always seeking the best for those He loves. “See how much the Father has loved us! His love is so great that we are called God’s children–and so in fact, we are. This is why the world does not know us; it has not known God.”(1 John 3:1)
As long as we stay true to God’s love for us, there’s nothing that can keep us away from it. “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below–there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
The Bible also uses agape love to describe our love for God(Luke 10:27), our neighbors (Matthew 22:39), and even our enemies(Matthew 5:44-45).
When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, he answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments.”(Matthew 22:37-40)
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul was talking about the importance of love. He said that he may have all the gifts of the Holy Spirit; be able to speak all languages of men and angels; have all the knowledge in the world and faith that moves mountains. But, It would all mean nothing if he had no love. (I Corinthians 13:1-2)
How Do We Show Agape Love?
As Christians, we are to love each other just as Christ loves us. “And now I give you a new commandment; love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”(John 13:34)
When Jesus was asked who constituted as a neighbor, he gave the parable of the Good Samaritan to demonstrate that a neighbor is anyone in need, whether we liked them or not(Luke 10:30-37).
We are also required to love our enemies and those people who persecute us. Jesus knew that it would not be easy that’s why he went on to say that there’s a reward in loving those who don’t love us back. “Love your enemies and do good to them; lend and expect nothing back. You will then have a great reward, and you will be children of the most high God” (Luke 6:35)
Husbands are asked to love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. They should take care of their wives just as Christ takes care of the church and love them just as they love their own bodies. (Ephesians 5:25-28)
We can show agape love for Christ by obeying his teachings and keeping his commandments. When Jesus was preparing his disciples for his crucifixion, he told them that those who accept and obey his commandments are the ones who love him. He will also love those who love him and will reveal himself to them(John 14:21). We cannot claim to love Jesus if we ignore his teachings.
Agape love should not be just words and talk, it must be true love with action as demonstrated by our savior Jesus Christ. We should be ready to lay our lives for others just as Christ gave his life for us (1 John 3:16).
We show our love for Christ by loving and taking care of the less fortunate. After his resurrection, Jesus asked the apostle Peter if he loved him. Peter replied three times that he did, and Jesus told him to take care of his sheep (John 21:15-17).
We cannot claim to love God if we do not love the people around us. “We love because God first loved us. If we say we love God but hate our brothers and sisters, we are liars. For people cannot love God, whom they have not seen, if they do not love their brothers and sisters, whom they’ve seen.” (1 John 4:19-20)
However, the Bible also warns us against having agape love for the wrong things. We should not love the world nor the things of the world(1 John 2:15). We should also not love money(Matthew 6:24), darkness (John 3:19), or men’s approval(John 12:43).
In a non-religious context, agape love is seen when people donate money, food, clothing to the less fortunate out of the goodness of their hearts. Also, teachers, nurses, or people who donate their time to serve others are seen to express agape love.
Agape Love Comes From God
Agape love does not come naturally to us because of our sinful nature. If we are to love others as God loves us, we can only get that kind of love from God himself. He has given us this supernatural love through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and teaches us what true love means.
“This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who’s God’s gift to us.” (Romans 5:5, Galatians 5:22)
Love is very important in the life of a believer. It is the greatest of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “Meanwhile these three remain faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.”(1 Corinthians 13:13)
As Christians, we should follow the example of Jesus Christ and love other people whether they are our fellow believers, neighbors, or even enemies. “Your life must be controlled by love, just as Christ loved us and gave his life for us as a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice that pleases God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)