When someone says, ‘I’m a Christian’ the first thing I look for is evidence of love. Let’s talk about what we mean when we use the word ‘Love’.
‘Love’ is a blanket term describing a variety of things spanning from sexual love to commitment to pleasure in someone or something. I ‘love’ ice cream and I also ‘love’ my wife… What’s the difference?
In Greek, there are four words used to describe what we call ‘love’. I appreciate the Greek because the words are rich in meaning and contain dimensions our English word ‘love’ simply does not contain.
Love rendered in Greek… simply.
- Storge means the love or affection of family (parent and children)
- Philia means affection between friends or equals. Think brotherly love (Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love)
- Eros means sexual or romantic love. This is where we get the word, ‘erotic.’
‘Agape’ love is the highest form of love. Agape love is a sacrificial love and is an act of the will. Meaning, this love is a choice and has a cost. This love delights in its object and is sacrificial in its essence. Let me clarify. Agape love does not mean total acceptance of acceptance of bad behavior or choices. I can love you and absolutely disagree with you at the same time.
So how do we recognize ‘agape’ love?
Look for the sacrifice. Which means humility and an act of the will will be involved. It will be an abiding affection, delight and commitment by the one expressing it. The value I place on the object of my love is directly linked to what I’m willing to sacrifice. The higher the cost, the greater the love. How can I find delight in sacrificing ourselves? Great question!
Here is the hard part of understanding ‘agape’ love. Agape love must come from outside one’s self. Other affections are self-manufactured and may have self-gratification undergirding them. Meaning that other ‘lower’ forms of love can have selfish motivations driving them. Only agape is completely SELFLESS.
The Evidence of abiding faith in Jesus Christ is love ‘in deed and in truth.”
This love is the pinnacle of love expressed as ‘agape’ love – sacrificial love.
With this love there is a cost involved.
With this love there is a choice – an act of the will.
This ‘agape’ love must come from outside ourselves.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down out lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16).
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” (John 3:16).
There will be a cost…. there will be a sacrifice with this love.