May 24

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“1. Affection, good-will, love, benevolence” is the definition given by Thayer to the Greek word agape. The Scriptures describe it as actions of benevolence or esteem due to one’s intense desire for the well-being of another (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16-19; 4:9-11). It is not merely saying “I love you.” Rather, it is love manifested in actions. It is not merely friendship (phileo). It is not family love (storgos). It is not a physical attraction love (eros). But it is the highest form of love—the willing sacrifice of self on behalf of others.

It is the agape love with which a Christian is to love God. Upon being asked “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love [agape] the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30). Yes, the Christian must love God with all his: (1)”thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors;” (2) life; (3) intellect; and (4) energy. To truly agape God is to willingly keep His commandments, and honestly proclaim “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20).
It is the agape love with which a Christian is to love his neighbor. Jesus said the second great commandment is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mat. 22:39). Who is my neighbor? He is anyone who is near by: at work or school; at stores; in traffic. The Christian loves his neighbor as he loves himself: physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Yes, you should do unto them what when you would want them to do for you if the circumstances were reversed.
It is the agape love with which a Christian is to love his enemy. “But I say unto you, love your enemies” (Mat. 5:44-48). It may seem unthinkable and impossible, but Jesus gave us the example by doing that very thing. We are to love our enemies by forgiving them. Jesus did. So did Stephen. We can too. We are to love our enemies by doing them good. If we do them good, we may overcome evil with good and win him to Christ –as God did with us. Yes, it is important to love our enemies.
It is the agape love with which a Christian is to love his brethren. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another” (John 13:34-35). We are to love one another without suspicions (as the eleven may have been so inclined due to the betrayal by Judas), by strengthening one another to overcome trials (as the eleven were about to face), and as Jesus loved us (kindness, concern, comforting, instructing, praying, vindicating, reproving, patiently and sacrificially). It is this kind of love that will “turn heads” so that people will realize that we are His disciples –because this kind of love is not found in the world.

Agape. The highest form of love–the willing sacrifice of self on behalf of God, neighbor, enemies and brethren. It is the love without which (in any of the four categories) one cannot be saved. May our loving God help us to be even as He is.

Gary Henson

1 Thayer, on kardia (heart), p. 325.
2 1 Cor. 10:31; Mat. 10:39.
3 Col. 3:1-2.
4 Col. 3:23; Rom. 12:1-2.
5 John 14:15.
6 Luke 10:29-37.
7 Eph. 4:25; Gal. 6:10; Mark 16:15.
8 Mat. 7:12.
9 1 John 3:16-19; Rom. 5:6.
10 Luke 23:34.
11 Acts 7:59-60.
12 Rom. 12:20-21.
13 1 John 4:19.
14 John 13:34-35.
15 1 Cor. 16:22; Luke 10:25-37;
Mat. 6:15; 1 John 2:9-11; 4:7-8.

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