Oh, LOVE. Not only a word, but a force, a fire, filled with power—able to lift us to the heights of joy, and drop us into the depths of sorrow—to transform a reality, and change a life.
Love has existed since the beginning of time, and this Valentine’s day, we want to embark on an exploration of the origins and types of love. By gaining a deeper understanding of its characteristics and different faces, we can utilize this gift we have been given in a more intentional way.
In the ancient Greek, we see four words for love: agape, phileo, storge, and eros. Over the next few days, several of our writers will have life-changing words to say about each type of love, so check back daily.
For today, let’s take a look at agape love.
Agape is a Greek word which means “love” (unconditional love). Although not attached to a specific religious connotation, this term has been used for centuries in Christian theology to describe the love of God or Christ for mankind–as God’s very essence is defined in the scriptures as “love.”
In the dictionary, agape is defined as “selfless love of one person for another without sexual implications (especially love that is spiritual in nature). Going further, agape can be recognized by the action it prompts; the kind of love that is not only a feeling, but can be recognized by what it does, much as an exercise of the will, an intentional choice.
We recognize that we have each had a unique experience with the “spiritual,” a result of coming from different backgrounds, beliefs, and education. Yet, we are all on our own spiritual journey. I would like to share my own experience with God in hope that it will remind you of the agape love available to you.
For years I questioned if God even saw me, or knew who I was. It felt as if He created the world, set it in motion, and said, “ok, it’s done,” and left us to fend for ourselves. I would look at the millions of people on the planet, and yet feel so alone. I could not fathom how God could possibly care so much about each individual, especially me. I felt like a faceless number among the masses. Who would care if I did this…or that–why did it matter?
With these questions floating in my mind, I embarked on a mental and emotional exploration of the scriptures. While it takes faith to believe that these ancient texts are first of all true, and second of all applicable to all people–I finally decided to take the leap and believe. Once that happened, I landed on foundational truths that transformed my once purposeless existence into one of meaning, where each moment mattered.
One passage in particular stuck out to me in the book of John (a disciple of Jesus), who, inspired by God, recorded the truth: “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:9). Meaning that, in the beginning of time God chose to love us despite how He felt about humanity—clearly knowing all our shortcomings, yet choosing to see us through unconditional eyes of love.
Another epiphany for me came from the mouth of Jesus “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10: 29-31) In Bible times, sparrows were permitted to build their nests in the Temple where the spiritual teachers spoke, and scholars believe they were sold for perhaps food or sacrifice. The fact that Jesus mentioned that this tiny bird does not fall and go unnoticed, followed by the comment about knowing the hairs on my head impacted me profoundly. Strangely, I thought about how my hair falls out all the time, and how the number I have must be constanly changing. To believe what Jesus says here is to not fear going unnoticed by God, but to believe that He literally watches over me every second of my life.
God’s Agape is unlike any human love, because it is able to see beyond our flaws and love without restraint. His love is a place of peace, a place of belonging, and most of all, a place of forgiveness and grace. Although we can never be as perfect as God, we are also called to this kind of agape love towards Him, and for one another. To do this is to not let our emotions, questions of, or problems with God or other humans dictate how much we love. That is not to say our agape love cannot have feelings attached to it; but the perfect scenario is when our actions and emotions agree.
As we celebrate love this week, Darling wants you to bask in the agape love of God. Know that out of purpose He created this world, and you to stand on it. Rest in how He intentionally loves you without condition. As this sinks into your heart, let this love overflow to the world around you.
Photo Credit: Michelle Kim Photography for Darling Magazine