I’ve been thinking a lot lately about agape love, what it is specifically, how it is demonstrated actively and passively in the world, and how the Christian should utilize it as Christ did. Agape love is Christian love. It is the love that only Christians can exercise properly because of the regenerative power of Christ’s death and resurrection in their lives.
I. What is agape love?
1 John 4:17 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
The love talked about here is agape love. It is not a type of general love (phileo). This love only comes from God. The person who exercises this love is born of God. But the only way this love is given to us is through belief in Jesus Christ’s atonement. The atonement on the cross was the most costly and powerful love ever demonstrated. The atonement is quite literally love — the agape love.
In Matthew 22 Jesus says the greatest commandment is to “…LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.” “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’”
The first part is the moment of justification: the main love of God and conversion in the person. The second part flows directly from the first part. It is a command from Jesus to love as He did. It is the life of discipleship and sanctification.
II. How it is demonstrated.
In the modern world, agape love is despised. It is seen as being weak and lowly. Pride and selfishness are at the forefront of the sinner’s mind. Love is the last thing to be demonstrated to get ahead in the world.
Agape love is perceived to be weak because it is meek. It is humble and lowly. It is not selfish nor prideful. It is not like a clanging cymbal or gong. It does not rejoice in unrighteousness. (1 Corinthians 13) Love turns the other cheek, and doesn’t fight back. It acts as Christ acted.
At the same time agape love is one of the most powerful things. Peter says in 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” This love “puts out” and “takes care of” many sins. Love can smother the fire of sin. This is very practical though and should be always at the forefront of confronting and fighting sin. When confronting someone about their sin do with love and grace. And when fighting sin remember the love on the cross.
Proverbs 25:21-22 says “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you.” The love in helping your enemy puts burning coals on his head. And you will be rewarded by the Lord.
III. How the Christian should exercise this love.
This love can be used in two practical ways for the Christian:
First, in a more passive and internal sense, it can be used to combat and fight sin and to realize the power of Christ’s atonement on the cross and what He did for you.
In a more active and visible sense, this love should be at the beginning of any type of evangelism opportunity to those who are lost, and to those who are needy and poor. Without it, Christian duties cannot be fully put forth from the Christian.
We must realize that this love isn’t the withholding of pain. I think many times we warp our view and believe that we love someone because we don’t hurt them, or we don’t take advantage of them. But this isn’t really true. Love is something that should be an active force because of Christ and His death and resurrection. It must be visible because Christians are called to be a city on a hill. We are called to be salt of the earth!