Living a Life of Agape Love
Love is a word that can conjure up many images and definitions in our mind. But God’s Word offers a definition that’s different from culture’s typical explanation, and it brings refreshing clarity to how God loves us and expects us to love others in return.
We love, because he first loved us. I John 4:19, ASV
What do you think about when you hear the word love? Is it a thought of your significant other, those infamous butterflies that are synonymous with a first date, a romantic scene from a favorite movie, or even a warm hug from your favorite grandparent? The word love can bring to mind a million different images and an array of mixed feelings that coincide. Whether it be through social interactions, social media, or just the media in general, we see again and again that our culture typically reduces love to two dimensions: sexual intimacy and romantic feelings. These two aspects of love are indeed a wonderful part of it, but are not the entire story. It can actually become very confusing when they are left as the sole definition of love. God’s Word teaches us about a greater love that provides us with a key insight into not only how we should love one another, but how he demonstrates his love for us.
A key Biblical scene that beautifully exemplifies a deeper expression of love is found the night before Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus is fully aware that Judas had betrayed him, and these are his last few minutes alone before he’s arrested.
Jesus left the upper room with his disciples and, as was his habit, went to the Mount of Olives, his place of secret prayer. There he told the apostles, “Keep praying for strength to be spared from the severe test of your faith that is about to come.”
Then he withdrew from them a short distance to be alone. Kneeling down, he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup of agony away from me. But no matter what, your will must be mine.”
Jesus called for an angel of glory to strengthen him, and the angel appeared. He prayed even more passionately, like one being sacrificed, until he was in such intense agony of spirit that his sweat became drops of blood, dripping onto the ground.
(Luke 22:39-44 The Passion Translation)
Regardless of Jesus’ feelings during this intense hour of anguish, he chose to love his Father through obedience. This act of love, demonstrated through Jesus’ will, is called Agape love in the original Greek translation. The cross wasn’t an accident or a plan devised by man. It was a divine event planned out long before our time on earth began (1 Peter 1:19-21), orchestrated by the Godhead, and executed by the intentional and sacrificial choice of Jesus. It was, at its purest form, Agape love. This act of the will, regardless of feelings and circumstances, is the deepest and most sacrificial form of love. It is the commitment to this love that is modeled for us in this sacred scene between God the Father and his Son. This interaction is ultimately Jesus saying, “Regardless of my feelings, I will lay down my life because I love you.”
This God-founded love is what inspires an exhausted mother to wake up in the middle of the night once again to help her child fall back to sleep. It’s a love that cleans the dirty dishes to give their spouse a break, even though it’s not their turn, or chooses to speak a kind word to someone who has a habit of being unkind in return. It’s the choice to forgive that same ugly and tiring offense once more because Christ has forgiven all of our sin. It’s the small, daily choices we make to put others’ interests above our own, despite our feelings and circumstances. And like the cross, it’s a love that takes full responsibility and has the end in mind. When we think about how to live a life that truly reflects Agape love, we don’t have to wait on our feelings to catch up; we can remember that real love always chooses to love anyway.
“So this is my command: Love each other deeply, as much as I have loved you.”
(John 15:12 The Passion Translation)
Jesus, thank you that I am not left with a love that is fleeting and fickle, but love that is strong and steadfast. You demonstrated your great Agape love by laying down your life for me when I was still in rebellion against you. You pursued me regardless of my actions and gave me the opportunity to choose you. Help me now to lay down my self again so that I can love others the way you have selflessly loved me. Amen.