What is Agape Love? That is a great question. The New Testament was written in Greek, then translated into other languages. There are different Greek words used for love by the authors of the New Testament books, and they have different meanings. But they do overlap in some ways. We’ll look at two of them.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
Two Words for Love
- Phileo love emphasizes the emotional and affectional aspects of love. We can’t easily choose to feel affectionate love for someone. It’s difficult to control how you feel.
- Agape love emphasizes the choice and obedience aspects of love. This love looks out for someone’s well-being. We can choose to show this love for others against our own best interests and despite our feelings. Jesus talks about agape love in this passage from The Sermon on the Mount:
“I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you….For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?… Therefore be perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:44-48).”
Loving Your Enemy
Loving, i.e., looking out for the best interests of our enemy, doesn’t come naturally. It’s God’s type of love. And that isn’t based on our feelings. We have to choose to agape and bless those who curse and hate us.
Jesus points out that there’s no praise for loving those who love us. Even despised sinners have that love.
The best example of agape is God Himself. He so loved the world that He sent His only Son to die in our place. God agape-d (sic) us while we were still His enemies:
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”
Believers’ love for God responds to what God initiated, not us:
“We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19-20).”
The Greater Love, Jesus’ Love
Jesus talked about the highest agape; the love that He showed for His friends:
“Greater love has no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).”
Jesus loved us that way. Again, God took the initiative to remove our sins through the Person of Jesus. And Jesus voluntarily did God’s will. We didn’t come to Him first, giving Him love. He loved us and died for us while we were still enemies.
You can read more about this Great News here and by watching the Great News video on this page.
Agape Love by Choice
Agape love can also be a pure choice for no apparent reason. The passage below illustrates this:
“For before the children had been born, having done neither evil nor good, so that the purpose of God according to election might stand (and) it was said to her (Rachel, their mother), “The elder shall serve the younger.”As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated (Romans 9:11-13).”
Jacob and Esau were twins. But God chose Jacob as a blessing even before they were born and hadn’t done anything good or evil. God showed Jacob agape by choosing him. When it says that God “hated” Esau, it means that God didn’t choose him for a special blessing. This “hate” didn’t come from God’s feelings towards Esau or because of anything Esau did.
What is Agape Love?
- Agape love isn’t based primarily on feelings as phileo love is.
- Agape love is a choice to obey God and look out for even an enemy’s best interest.
- God is our example of agape love: He sent His Son to die for us while we were His enemies.
- God showed agape love to Jacob by choosing him over Esau for a special blessing.