One of the most famous chapters in the Bible concerning Christian love is the chapter defining love 1st Corinthians chapter 13. In the King James version, this word is translated as charity. This is because charity reflects the Greek word in a better sense. The word in Greek is agape which is an unselfish altruistic love in action.
Agape (ἀγάπη) means an unconditional, selfless, sacrificial love and concern for the welfare of others. The love of God for man and of our desires for doing good for others, even strangers, without expecting anything in return.
The Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas expressed it as, “to will the good of another.”
In many places in the King James Version, agape is translated as “Charity.” Charity comes from the Latin word caritas, which is Latin for agape. This is the highest form of Christian love.
Agape love is active. It demonstrates love through actions. Feelings, emotions and sentiment are not primary, but can be the motivation behind the action of agape love.
The agape concept is found in Buddhism as mettā (Pali) or maitrī (Sanskrit) meaning benevolence, loving-kindness, friendliness, good will, and active interest in others.
This is the love Jesus told his followers to love one another with. The command to love one another as Jesus loves us was new because it brought our understanding of being a part of God’s people to a new level. We are to love each other in the same sacrificial way Jesus loves us.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”(John 13:34-35)
” He that loves not, knows not God, for God is love.”(1 John 4:8)
Agape love is the essence of God’s being.
Jesus expressed agape love towards us by sacrificing himself on the cross for our sins.
1 Corinthians 13
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul addressed the idea of Love in the 13th chapter. He begins with:
Though I speak with the tongue of men and of angels and have not charity, I am come as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge and have not charity, I am nothing.
Knowing deep doctrines of the Bible is good, but if I don’t have Agape love (charity) in my heart that knowledge does not mean so much, in fact, according to Paul, it means nothing. All those deep mysteries should open my heart to an agape love.
In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read “And thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
This is repeated by Joshua (22:5), where he tells us to “love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
In the gospels, in Matthew, Mark and Luke we again read, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
Paul writes in In Ephesians 3:9 “And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.”
And Jesus gives us clear instructions where the limits of this love are:
But I say unto you, Love (αγαπατε) your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.Matthew 5:44
This love filter, understanding the Bible through Jesus’ commandments to love God, our neighbours (even strangers), each other (family, friends and fellow Christians) and our enemies, can explain some otherwise strange and hard saying of Jesus.
Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.Matthew 7: 21-23
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name?
And in your name have cast out devils?
And in your name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
These are people who are professing Christians, who religiously and intellectually follow their religious denomination’s doctrines, but do not understand Jesus in their souls. They follow theological explanations from their Church leaders, without trying to understand God. They follow “feel good” sermons they like to hear, instead of God’s Word. They could just as well be in the Theosophical Society, Anthroposophical Society or following the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg.
In each denomination there are Christians who, despite their human failings, sincerely desire to follow and obey Jesus, and who believe in Jesus as the author and finisher of their faith. These are the genuine followers of Jesus, but next to them in the pews are people from the previous paragraph.
Paul reflected the practical application of God’s agape love when he wrote:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.Phillipians 4:8
Love and Sin
It is often asked, “If God so loved the world, why does God send people to Hell?”
“If God loves us why does God allow evil?”
These questions are asked from a false understanding of what God’s love is. There is a tendency here to be unable to see love outside a romanticised paradigm.
God did not create Hell for us. None of us are supposed to go there. The problem is that God gave us freedom of will. The freedom to choose is intrinsically embedded in God’s agape love. For love to exist there must be a free will to choose. Even the free will to choose obedience or rebellion. Otherwise we are mindless puppets.
I have yet to meet someone who blames God for evil in this world, who wants God to take control of his or her life.
God told Adam and Eve to enjoy everything in the Garden of Eden, except for one thing, and that was to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As long as they obeyed that one rule they could enjoy everything in the Garden of Eden. Their willing obedience, because of their love towards God kept them safe. That love was demonstrated by Adam and Eve relying on God to guide them in what was right and what was wrong. They did not try to judge right and wrong themselves. They “walked with God.”
Then the Devil came along and tried to convince Eve to just test the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Finally Eve succumbed and thought, “Why not?” She used her free will to disobey God’s simple instruction, at first merely thinking of it, and them listening to the Devil’s voice lying to her:
“for God knows that in the day you eat of it, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”Genesis 3:5
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit of it. and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.
That verse is a key to all our sins. Sin can be broadly divided into three categories:
- Lust of the Flesh (the tree was good for food)
- Lust of the eyes (it was pleasant to the eyes)
- Pride of life (a tree to be desired to make one wise)
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.1 John 2:16
Up to that point Adam and Eve trusted God for what was morally right and morally wrong. From this point on, they and their descendants made these decisions, based either on following God, or deciding for themselves (being as gods).
Of these three, pride is the one where we rebel strongest against God. To say we can know, better than God what is good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust, that is the fundamental sin.
” The wicked, through the pride of his look, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.”Psalm 10:4
This is the most serious rejection of, and rebellion against God, that we don’t need God and won’t listen to what God tells us in God’s own Word. These people are not only the Ted Bundys and Charles Mansons of the world, they are also the “good people” scientists, politicians, liberal Catholic Priests, the orchestrators of Vatican II, nice liberal Protestant priests and the prosperity preachers (lust of the flesh and eyes and the pride of life).
Love Conquers Sin
The Apostle Peter summed up how we can overcome sin with God’s agape love (charity):
And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8
Bible Definition of Love
This definition is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. This is the Agape Love of God sometimes called “Charity.” In most cultures, the word “love“’ is understood as emotional feelings. In the King James Version of the Bible the word “charity” is used as this carries the idea of displaying our actions towards others, rather than what we feel.
- Love suffer long, showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.
- Love is kind
- Love does not envy, is glad for another person who has more.
- Love does not boast.
- Love is not arrogant and pompous.
- Doth not behave inappropriately.
- Love is not selfish.
- Love is not easily provoked.
- Love does not think evil thoughts.
- Love does not rejoice in sin.
- Love rejoices in the truth.
- Love protects all things.
- Love believes the best of all situations.
- Love expects the best in others, and for others.
- Love endures and persists.
- Love never fails.
The final verse in 1 Corinthians 13 sums up the importance of God’s agape love (charity):
And now abides faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
God’s Agape Love