Agape Love in the Words of St. John (Part 2)

Agape Love in the Words of St. John (Part 2)

Agape Love in the Words of St. John, the Apostle of Love (part 2).

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us. These spiritual blessings come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, who in truth and agape love is the Father’s Son.” (2 John 1:3).

The most important thing to remember as we follow Jesus is that our trust in Him is activated by our unconditional love; our faithfulness to Christ is made effective by the divine love we show others; our belief in the truth of Christ is energized by our demonstration of God’s love; the divine love that we show others reveals our faith to be alive and well; our trust in Jesus gets its exercise through a lifestyle of agape love.

Agape Love – Agape love is the supreme of all the loves, and desires the highest good of someone else. Agape is “the highest level of love known to humanity,” (C. S. Lewis), and thus can only come from above with God as its source. Agape love is the ultimate expression of God’s nature, the essence of His character (see Exodus 34). Agape love is not Eros, which is romantic love. It is not Phileo, which is brotherly love. It is not Storge, which is family love. Agape love is the divine love that can only come to us from the heart of God. Agape love is the love shared between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is truly the source of all these other loves, but it is only agape love that is poured into our hearts from the Holy Spirit, to those who believe in Christ. Agape love is an eternal virtue outlasting all the other virtues (1 Corinthians 13:8). Agape love is the primary fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) Agape love, the sacred love of God, is universal, it is a gift, it is highly active, it is sacrificial, and it is unconditional.

Universal: “For God so agape-loved the world that He gave His only and unique Son, so that everyone who faithfully trusts into Him may have eternal life instead of being utterly destroyed.” (John 3:16). This seems too good to be true. But actually, because of God’s love, it is so good it has to be true. Creator God has an eternal love for all people. He didn’t send his Son for the sake of the privileged or elite. He doesn’t love just those who are religious or pious. God truly loves everyone in His creation, past, present and future; the righteous and the unrighteous; the worthy and the unworthy; the broken and the whole; those who have a lot to offer and those who don’t. He sent His Son for those who would love Him, and those who would hate Him; those who might accept Christ and those who might reject Him; those who would worship Jesus and those who would shout “Crucify Him!”  Not one person in the history of the world has had to qualify for God’s love, to somehow earn God’s love, to be considered worthy of His love. “For God so loved the world…” That kind of universal love is agape love, and is intended to spill out into the world through believers in Him.

A Gift: For we know how dearly God agape-loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with agape love; God has poured out His agape love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us; We can now experience the endless agape love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!” (Romans 5:5) The most virtuous person on the planet cannot manufacture agape love as if it’s merely a highly esteemed trait. We don’t have it in us. We aren’t born with the ability to show agape love. It is impossible for us to demonstrate agape love on our own, because it can only derive from God, and not from human nature. Agape love is an undeserved gift. Faith in God comes first, even a microscopic faith. And then agape is poured into our hearts as believers, and it then spreads to the world. This divine love being poured into our hearts is meant to be demonstrated to others through acts of mercy, kindness and compassion. This love, this affectionate yearning that others are blessed, spills over from our hearts only after being poured into our hearts through a faithful submission to the Lord. Through the Holy Spirit, agape love can realistically become second nature to us and in us, displacing the old lesser loves in a Christian’s life. Agape love is the means by which God’s divine love may reach the world. Agape love is an eternal virtue, and it lasts forever (1 Cor. 13:8). Agape love is the primary fruit of the Spirit, the divine love offered to us to spread God’s love to others. Love poured into us, love splashed out to others… God’s gift to us that we would offer that gift to others.

Unconditional: God’s agape has always been offered to the world unconditionally, so that same divine love is offered to others in the same way. Our love for others is fleshed out by desiring the highest good for someone else. Our love doesn’t expect anything in return, it is a love that gives but doesn’t take. Our love does not seek out those who would somehow be worthy of love, or could earn God’s love. Agape love is that love which is offered to hateful enemies, to those who love nothing better than to hurt you and disrespect you. Agape love even desires what’s best for those who hate God. Agape is offered freely, no strings attached, to all made in the image of God. When we love an image-bearer, we are honoring our Creator. Agape love is revealed through forgiveness.

Sacrificial: Agape love is the ultimate demonstration of unselfishness, of self-denial for the benefit of others. Agape develops the habit of forgetting yourself on purpose. It is the willingness to remain a daily martyr of goodwill, picking up one’s cross so others are blessed. Agape love sometimes is demonstrated at great personal cost. It could even mean giving up something that is rightfully ours so that someone else can receive something he probably hasn’t earned. The clearest and most profound example of sacrificial agape love was the death of the Innocent One, Jesus Christ, on the Cross. He gave up His life for those who didn’t deserve it, which includes all of humanity. “No one has greater agape love than a person who is willing to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).

Active: Agape love is not theoretical, it is not abstract. It is not just a great idea ripe for discussion. Agape love actually does things, it acts out and demonstrates love. Agape doesn’t merely think about loving others with God’s love, agape fleshes out the love and makes it visible. Agape is filled with genuine empathy and not mere sentimentality. Feelings and emotions have nothing to do with agape love. Agape is an act of the will, a deliberate decision to demonstrate God’s love to others whether they deserve it or not, whether you “feel like it” or not. Agape loves what is best for someone else, which could mean accountability and a proper justice. It could mean mercy, too. That’s why agape love depends on the wisdom of God to discern what is best for someone else. Sometimes agape love is inactive, in the sense of not intervening, and stepping back if it is appropriate. Agape love is literally practical that way, and wants to put into play an imitation of Jesus as He knew when and what to say, what to do. We know that the Son of God was completely filled with agape love, and that He went around doing good, touching the untouchable, loving the unlovable, embracing the unclean, accepting those who were rejected, serving those who were unlovely and broken. If one wonders what agape love looks like in action, read the gospels and imitate Jesus. When we need to be reminded of what marks the life a true believer, we fix our eyes on Jesus and witness agape love in the flesh.

Agape Love in the Words of St. John, the Apostle of Love:

This is how God showed His agape love for us: God sent His only Son into the world so we might live through Him. This is the kind of agape love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time agape-loved God, but that He agape-loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My beloved (agape) friends, if God agape-loved us like this, we certainly ought to agape-love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we agape-love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and His agape love becomes complete in us – Perfect agape love!” (1 John 4:9-12).

 “And we have come to understand by experience and put our trust in this agape love that comes from God. God is Agape Love. When we dwell in agape love, and take up permanent residence in God’s agape love, we remain united with God, we in God and God in us. This way, agape love becomes at home in us, in our communion with Him, and it matures in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day. For our standing in the world is identical to Christ’s. There is no room for fear in agape love. Well-formed agape love banishes fear. Fear has to do with punishment, so the person who continues to fear, whether fear of death or fear of judgment, are not yet fully formed or brought to maturity in regard to agape love.” (1 John 4:16-18).

“We agape-love God now, because He first agape-loved us. If anyone boasts, ‘I love God,’ and continues to detest his brother or sister in Christ, he is a liar; if he won’t agape-love the person he can see, how can he agape-love the God he can’t see? This charge we have from Christ is blunt: Agape-loving God includes agape-loving people. You’ve got to agape-love both.” (1 John 4:19-21).

Everyone who relies on the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, has God as his Father, and is a born-again child of God; and everyone who agape-loves the Father also agape-loves His offspring. By this we come to understand that we agape-love the children of God: when we agape love God and obey His commands and are mindful of His teaching. And these orders of His are not burdensome or oppressive.” (1 John 5:1-3).

“I can’t tell you happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth, exactly as instructed by the Father. But permit me a reminder, friends, and this is not a new teaching but simply a repetition of our original and basic charter: that we agape love each other. Agape love means following His commandments, and His unifying charge is that you conduct your lives in agape love. This is the first thing you heard from us, and nothing has changed.” (2 John 1:4-6).

Beloved (agape), I pray that you may prosper in every way and that your body may remain in good health, even as I know you are prospering spiritually.” (3 John 1:2).

“Beloved (agape), when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible. They have made a full report back to the church here, a message about your agape love. It’s good work you are doing, helping these travelers on their way, hospitality worthy of God Himself! (3 John 1:6).

“Beloved (agape), don’t imitate evil, don’t go along with what we know is bad. Be an example of the good. Those who do what is good are from God; those who do what is bad are not from God, and don’ know the first thing about Him.” (3 John 1:11).  

May God’s unmerited favor be granted to you and spiritual peace overflow to you from Him Who is and Who was and Who is to come, and from the sevenfold Holy Spirit before His throne, and from Jesus Christ the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, the first to be brought back to life, and the Ruler-Prince of the kings of the earth. To Him Who constantly agape-loves us and has once for all loosed and freed us from our sins by His own blood, and to the One who has appointed us to be a kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father – To Him be glory and dominion throughout the eternity of eternities, forever and ever! Amen!” (Revelation 1:4-6).

“But I have this against you, church of Ephesus. You have abandoned the agape love you had for me at the beginning, the divine love that held first place in your hearts above all else.” (Revelation 2:4).

“Here is the message to Thyatira, from the Son of God, whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like burnished bronze. ‘I know all that you have done for me, your agape love, your trust, your ministry and perseverance. And I know that you excel in these virtues even more now than at first. But I have this against you: you continue to tolerate that Jezebel woman who claims to be a prophet, but is teaching and deceiving my servants to commit sexual sins and eat food that has been sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:19).

“Then I heard a triumphant voice in heaven proclaiming: ‘Now salvation and power are set in place, and the kingdom reign of our God and the ruling authority of His Anointed One are established. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who relentlessly accused them day and night before God, has now been defeated – cast out once and for all! They conquered him completely through the blood of the Lamb and the powerful word of His testimony. They triumphed because they did not agape love their own lives and were willing to die for Christ, even when faced with defeat. So rejoice, you heavens, and every heavenly being!” (Revelation 12:10-12).