What Is Agape Love and How Do I Apply It?
God is love, and you and I are created in His image. Love is the essence and the apex of who God is, and the basis for everything that He does, along with His foundations of justice and righteousness. Psa. 33:5 says, “The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” Psa. 89:14 adds, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.”
That means everything that happens on the Mountain of the Lord (the 8th Mountain, or heaven) stems from His love. That also means that everything that we receive from the Lord during our encounters with Him will radiate with His love! 1 John 4:17-18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.”
1 John 4:7-12 (NLT) states, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”
Rom. 5:8 (NLT) adds, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” The MSG version of this verse reads, “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him” (author’s emphasis).
Eph. 1:4-5 (NLT) explains, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (author’s emphasis).
The MSG version of this passage reads, “How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.”
Wow! God’s love for us is intentional, deliberate, premeditated, extravagant, eternal, unmerited, unselfish, sacrificial and unconditional, and contains or possesses both healing and redemptive qualities and attributes. And, it’s free for the taking. Now, that’s what I call a great deal!
There are eight Greek words used to express various aspects of love: agape, phileo or philia, storge, ludus, pragma, philautia and eros. Agape is the word used for God’s love, and means selfless love—love that is unconditional and focused on others. Phileo or philia refers to an affectionate, warm and tender platonic love. It makes you desire friendship with someone. Philia means fondness, brotherly love, or comradeship. Storge means affectionate, especially between parents and children. Ludus is playful love, or so-called “puppy love,” between those newly in love or infatuated.
Pragma is longstanding love, as between mature, married couples. Philautia is self-love, and can refer to either healthy self-esteem, or narcissism. Eros means sexual or erotic love. And Philanthropos means the love of mankind, or humanity, and is the root word for philanthropy. To be clear, in this article we are focused on agape love as the model and standard for Christian living and treatment of others.
So, what else does God’s love look like? We find in the Scriptures that agape love is patient, and is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Cor. 13:4-8a, NIV). This places love in very elite company, as most things in life, and in the universe, fail at some point. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
We will be able to quickly discern whether something came from the Lord by looking at whether it is characterized by and saturated with God’s love. For example, if I were to receive a strategy for my family from the Lord during my time on the 8th Mountain, it would be full of these attributes of His love as found in 1 Cor. 13:4-8a. The implementation of this strategy from the 8th Mountain would result in my family experiencing the patience of the Lord through me, the kindness of the Lord through me, the humility of the Lord through me, the truth of the Lord through me, the forgiveness of the Lord through me, and so on and so forth.
As we spend time with the Lord on the 8th Mountain, we will be transformed to become more and more like Him in His love; we will possess the nature of His love! Just as the things that come from the 8th Mountain are characterized by and saturated with God’s love, so will we be! Our very essence will be full of His love. Everything we think, do, say, and feel will begin to overflow from the deep wells of His love inside of our spirits to bless everyone around us.
We will become champions and conveyors of the love of God! Everything that the Lord leads us to do will become unique messages of His love to the world through us. The nature of the love of God in us is to overflow to others to bless them, which is the foundation for giving as God intended. The ultimate example of giving that flowed from the love of God is found in John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Just as God expressed His love to the world through giving us His only begotten Son, He will also express His love inside of us to the world by leading us to give to others—at times sacrificially.
Love is not a feeling; it is an action. Real love has healthy boundaries, just as God does. And Eph. 4:15 tells us to be “speaking the truth in love.” That takes humility, wisdom, discernment, courage and tact or diplomacy at times. 1 John 3:18 (NIV) says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” Faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:26).
Col. 3:12-14 (NIV) says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” So love is a kind of superglue that adds a “stickiness” factor in our relationships and helps hold things together.
Finally, 1 Pet. 4:8 (NIV) says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” The NLT writes, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” And the MSG adds, “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.”
Agape love is the kind of love that enables us to forgive, to reconcile and to pray for our enemies and for those who despitefully use us, abuse us, and persecute us. It is love that stands the test of life and the test of time. So what are you waiting for? Get your love on, and never take it off or let it go. Love is often messy, and it doesn’t always look pretty or neat and orderly, or like we expected. It sometimes comes in unusual packages and broken vessels and strange places. Learn to recognize it, steward it, and practice it as often as possible and as much as possible with as many people as possible. Your life may depend on it.