How Can We Practice the Agape Love God Shows Us?

Contributing Writer
How Can We Practice the Agape Love God Shows Us?

Throughout the biblical narrative, a Messiah was promised to come and deliver His people from bondage and darkness. This was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth’s incarnation, death, and resurrection in the first century. Christ did not come as a warrior Messiah to destroy the Romans so that Yahweh might return and re-establish the temple. Christ became the suffering servant who gave his life for all—the ultimate display of agape love.

Why Is Agape Love Important Today?

In our fractured world, we all yearn for hope and redemption. We see that yearning in popular music, film, television shows, and books—we all crave redemption stories.

We also recognize that we crave redemption because we all experience human brokenness. In the book of Genesis, our ancestors broke a sacred covenant with God, which resulted in sin and death.

Agape love answers this brokenness: it is a divine gift from Christ for fallen human beings. This love is only possible because of the hope of the Gospel of Christ. The love Christians reflect by the power of the Holy Spirit is the self-sacrificial love of Chris’s agape love. Agape love transcends morality, cultural religion, and human emotions.

Agape love can be emulated by listening to a struggling friend, being involved in a non-profit that does good in one’s own community, being a first responder, a teacher, fighting for social justice, or showing kindness and compassion, whatever one’s day job or vocation.

What Language Is the Word Agape From?

The word agape comes from ancient Greek and is pronounced ah-gah-pay. In the original Greek, agape meant “love-feast.” The Bible uses it as a feminine noun, meaning goodwill, affection, or the love of God the Father for his children.

There are seven types of love found in the Bible. To the ancient Greek poets and philosophers, “Agape” meant the highest form of love that desires the ultimate good for someone. Agape is used 106 times in the New Testament. A great example of agape love is Jesus’ parable, which tells of the prodigal son’s return in Luke 15. To the early church in the first century, Jesus of Nazareth embodied agape love through his acts of compassion and justice, as well as his death and resurrection.

The most literal example of the agape love-feast appears when Jesus held the Last Supper, commemorating his sacrifice. From the first-century church onward, Christians celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death by partaking in The Eucharist. This agape love celebration was an affirmation of hope and redemption.

What Makes Agape Love Different from Other Loves in the Bible?

Agape love is different from other important loves found in the Bible. C.S. Lewis’ classic The Four Loves, originally written as a radio broadcast, provides a great explanation of these loves. The other three are philia, storge, and eros.

  • Philia means friendship. Friendship is one of the great joys of this life. In a genuine friendship, one finds a common bond in particular interests and a devoted person who is there in the good and tough times. A good example of friendship from scripture is the love between John and Jesus, recorded in John’s gospel.
  • Storge means affection. Affection is defined as caring immensely for someone’s well-being. This love is experienced between lovers, friends, and family members. In Scripture, affection can be observed between Jesus’ parents, Mary and Josep, and Jesus’ disciples.
  • Eros means romantic love. The most interesting example from Scripture that portrays the joy of romantic love is The Song of Solomon. This ancient Hebrew poem uses a cultural Middle Eastern context to describe the relationship between the lover and the beloved.

These four different loves are important in daily life and a great gift from Christ. Agape love is distinct from these because it is the highest form of divine self-sacrificial love.

How Does Jesus Model Agape Love for Us?

Jesus was the perfect example of agape love because of His Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection in the first century. The other messianic movements before and after Jesus were about a power play to defeat the Romans by force so Yahweh would return and restore the temple. In Acts 5, Luke mentions the Sanhedrin leader Gamaliel defending Jesus’ disciples by pointing out that the other messianic movements were not of divine origin like Jesus of Nazareth’s.

In his life ministry, Jesus elevated women in a culture where they did not have a valid voice in a court of law. Jesus preached, healed, and helped the poor, broken, and outcasts, and he told stories about the king of God to people in the vernacular so they could understand.

Christ came to rescue all humanity simply because He loves us. This is described beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13 and John 3:16. The Creator of time and space yearns to redeem fallen humanity and give hope and eternal life to all His children. This good news has changed the lives of millions of people around the world.

How Can We Show Agape Love Today?

Regardless of our views, Christians are Christ’s followers. We can live out our faith by grace and love people of all worldviews.

Many things divide us today—particularly pride. We should recall that it was the sin of pride that caused Lucifer to become Satan in rebellions against God and the angelic hosts. This first sin committed in the Heavens is recorded in Isaiah 24. Lucifer was the greatest of all created angels, but he could not bear to live for God’s glory. Lucifer became Satan and always attempted to thwart Christ’s creative design. As powerful as Satan is, he is not greater than agape love. Christ’s agape love defeated death and the powers of darkness on the cross.

Christians can show people in this broken world that there is hope and healing in Christ by living out agape love. Fighting for social justice, being there for someone in their grief, partaking in acts of kindness and hospitality, and helping someone in need—these are all notable examples of showing agape love.

Before my conversion from agnosticism to Christianity, I was incredibly moved by observing Christians I knew living out the agape love of Christ and different poets, writers, and artists who exuded agape love. After my conversion, the word ‘agape’ became an especially important word for me because it reminded me of how much Christ loves all of humanity. My first book, Surprised by Agape, was published in 2018.

Classic Christian Quotes about Agape Love

“Charity means love. It is called Agape in the N.T. to distinguish it from Eros (sexual love), Storge (family affection) and Philia (friendship). So there are four kinds of ‘love’, all good in their proper place, but Agape is the best because it is the kind God has for us and is good in all circumstances . . . I can practise Agape to God, Angels, Man & Beast, to the good & the bad, the old & the young, the far and the near.” — C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world—no matter how imperfect— becomes rich and beautiful, it consists solely of opportunities for love.” — Soren Kierkegaard, Spiritual Writings

“Agape love is . . . profound concern for the well-being of another, without any desire to control that other, to be thanked by that other, or to enjoy the process.” — Madeleine L’Engle, Draper’s Book of Quotations For the Christian World

“When you know how much God is in love with you then you can only live your life radiating that love.” — Mother Teresa, Where There Is Love There Is God

"This is the secret of life: the self-lives only by dying, finds its identity (and its happiness) only by self-forgetfulness, self-giving, self-sacrifice, and agape love.” — Peter Kreeft, Handbook of Christian Apologetics

“Agape, the love of each one of us for the other, from the closest to the furthest, is in fact the only way that Jesus has given us to find the way of salvation and of the Beatitudes.” — Pope Francis, Religion News Service

“Agape is disinterested love. Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes . . . Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friend and enemy; it is directed toward both.” — Martin Luther King Jr., My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing up with the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"The early Christians . . . did with the word agape pretty much what they did with the ancient notion of virtue. They picked it up, soaked it in the message and achievement of Jesus, and gave it a new life, a new sort of life.” — N.T. Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters

Photo Credit:©GettyImages/lilkar

Justin Wiggins is an author who works and lives in the primitive, majestic, beautiful mountains of North Carolina. He graduated with his Bachelor's in English Literature, with a focus on C.S. Lewis studies, from Montreat College in May 2018. His first book was Surprised by Agape, published by Grant Hudson of Clarendon House Publications. His second book, Surprised By Myth, was co-written with Grant Hudson and published in  2021. Many of his recent books (Marty & Irene, Tír na nÓg, Celtic Twilight, Celtic Song, Ragnarok, Celtic Dawn) are published by Steve Cawte of Impspired. 

Wiggins has also had poems and other short pieces published by Clarendon House Publications, Sehnsucht: The C.S. Lewis Journal, and Sweetycat Press. Justin has a great zeal for life, work, community, writing, literature, art, pubs, bookstores, coffee shops, and for England, Scotland, and Ireland.