I love you is a statement that is easy to say but hard to act on, yet acts of love speak louder than words. There are different kinds of love, as understood over the centuries by Greek thinkers. For example, we have agape love (defined as God’s love), eros (related to sexual feelings and desires), phileo (friendly love) and storge (family love). Further research has been done on how people receive love, for example, the famous book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. With all these categorizations, God’s love for his people is unmatched and incomprehensible by the human mind. It was demonstrated by the sacrifice of his own Son, Jesus Christ, to make it possible for us to be forgiven and to become his children (John 3:16; 1 John 3:1). God demonstrated his love to us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). His love never changes. “For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says the LORD who has compassion on you (Isaiah 54:10).
The Nature of Agape Love
The nature of agape is highlighted in 1st Cor 13:4-8 where Paul used the same Greek word for love. The scriptures define agape as a patient (1 Corinthians 13:4). It means to be patient in bearing the offences and injuries of others; to be mild and slow in avenging; to be long-suffering, slow to anger, and slow to punish. It is used of God deferring the punishment of sin. We are also expected to be slow in reacting to wrongs done against us. Therefore, one reacts positively to a negative situation.
Agape has also been defined as kind. The word is used in Greek to mean that one is of useful service to others, to be benevolent, to be virtuous, fit for use, pleasant, and opposed to being burdensome to others. Agape is not boastful or proud and does not act improperly or dishonourably. It does not seek its own good, is not easily provoked, does not keep a record of wrongs, rejoices in the truth, bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things, and finally never fails (1 Corinthians 13:5-8). Agape love is manifested in four ways. First, expressed to unbelievers by Christ and the church. Secondly expressed between masters and servants, thirdly, among those in marriage and lastly, among the brethren in the church.
Unbelievers and Agape Love
The Bible says that God so loved the world that He gave his own beloved Son so that whoever believes in him lives forever (John 3:16). The love God showed to the world is agape. God demonstrated his love for us in the world while we were still sinners; Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Praise God for his love for us! In return, we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). We are expected to love the sinner and hate sin (John 13:34-35). Jesus demonstrated to us that he came for the sinners and to bring those in darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9, John 12:46; 1 Tim. 1:15). We are on a mission to the world (Matthew 28:19-20). How shall we win the sinners to Christ without loving them (Matthew 12:31)?
Agape Love in Marriage
Agape love is further expressed between a husband and a wife. In Ephesians 5:25, husbands are asked to love their wives as Christ loves the church. The Greek word used in the above scripture is agape. Husbands are to love their wives with selflessness, sacrifice, and unconditionally in the same way God loved us. For a husband to love his wife with God’s love, he must genuinely desire what is best for her and work for that best, regardless of the cost to himself. The standard is “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”.
Agape Love in the Church
Another way agape love is manifested is in the family of faith. The First Epistle of John emphasizes Christians’ love for one another (1 John 4:11; 3:16, 23). In John 13:34, 15:12, and 17, Jesus commands the disciples to love each other just as he loved them, which is unconditional love. The love mentioned is agape as well. God expects that Christians should love each other as he has loved us. As we love each other, we grow in understanding of God’s love and can easily express it even in long-term relationships like marriage. The church is where we nurture and grow in the love of God.
Master and Servant Relationship
When used of love to God or Christ as our master, the word agape involves the idea of affectionate reverence, prompt obedience, and grateful recognition of benefits received. Jesus said that no one can serve two masters. You will hate one and love the other (Matthew 6:24). We are asked to love the Lord our God in such a way as to show loyalty and obedience to him (Matthew 22:37). Things work together for good for them that love God with their whole heart (Romans 8:28). God has in store things that no eye has seen or ear heard (1 Corinthians 2:9). Part of that prize is God himself (1 Peter 3:18). Another prize of God for them that love him is the crown of life (James 1:12). These prizes are worth persevering for no matter what trial we go through (James 1:2-3, 12). Praise God that he shows us his love through these fantastic prizes.
May We Know the Love of God
I pray that out of his glorious riches, he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19). Let this be your prayer to better understand God’s incredible love.