What exactly is love? Is it something that two people can share? Maybe it’s the tie that binds a parent to a child? Alternatively, is it something an individual can express inwardly to appreciate and admire their own being? The answer is yes. However, there is one ultimate form of love that is more powerful than each of those expressions; agape.
English is a very limited language in that the meaning of the word “love” is washed down by its frequent usage in everyday linguistics. Therefore, I’m going to have to use some other languages to describe exactly how God feels for us.
First, let's explore Agape (ἀγάπη). It is the Greco-Christian term that refers to the highest form of love and charity. It is also used to describe the love of God for man and of man for God. One interesting fact is that this word is purely Biblical. Agape is the selfless, giving, unconditional type of active love. But Jesus didn’t speak Greek.
So that takes us back to Jesus’ day when he said that in Aramaic. Rakhmah (ܪܚܡܐ) is the term for divine mercy that Jesus would have spoken during his time on Earth, and it's the same word the disciples used to describe Jesus' acts and lifestyle.
Yet even before the coming of Christ, Jewish people used a word to identify this same type of love. That original word translated from Hebrew is Ahavah (אַהֲבָה). This word is special because its structure functions as both a verb and a noun. Ahavah is built by its root word ahav, which means, “to give”. Ahavah does not define a love that is earned or deserved. The love just originates from God's own character. It has no end and no beginning. God's love is an eternal fact of the universe.
The Apostle Paul taught us that grace is the only factor that has saved us from sin and death (Ephesians 2:4-5). Grace from God alone has done all the work to remove our worry and fear of death. It's up to us to offer grace during our lives to our neighbors while we live.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment of all was to love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength (Matthew 22:37) and the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). God provides agape and gave us an example of what it looks like when he sent his son to die on a cross for our sins.
Agape continues with you. The selfless love that places the needs of others above all else manifests in the heart of the giver. It is in giving that we receive, especially when we give to those who can never repay us. We are not called to spread love because it will make us feel better, instead, we are called to find meaning in our lives by offering a space of acceptance and unconditional love in the lives of others - even those we disagree with.
God’s grace abounds in each of our lives as we are called to love others unconditionally, including our neighbors. Originally, I had imagined that this article would be difficult to write, but the Golden Rule truly is the simplest of all. Love one another.
How will you spread agape today in the lives of the people around you?
Paul Gomez is the Manager, Hispanic/Latino Seeker Communications at United Methodist Communications. He hails from Las Vegas, NV and currently lives in Nashville, TN.
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[Posted February 14, 2019]