Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Dark Side of Agape (Agapao)

Auburn IL - Abandoned Church, Northeast Corner...

I would like to share with you something that could potentially be controversial. For many years I had believed that Agape was a pure, holy, and Godly love. If you have ever done any study on the word love you will see this repeated through nearly every commentary on the subject of love. Now there is a love that is pure, holy, and godly, but the word is not Agape. Yes you heard me right it is not Agape. I was surprised by the few instances of agape and Agapao that were negative. I had been taught that agape was God's love it turns out that only God's Agape is God's love. Man's Agape (or Agapao) can be polluted by sin (like everything else that is given by God's goodness).  I know some of you are saying, but BJ you just said Agape was "a higher standard in love." Really Christ challenges us to a higher standard; the words Christ used describe this challenge (including the word agape). Stated a different way Christ is the standard and not the word itself; regardless of what the actual word we use (love in English, agape or Agapao in Greek) it is the fullness of God's love represented in the person of Christ that is the ultimate guide for love.   In the New Testament there are 12 instances that paint the ugly side of Agape. I think that it is important for us to understand these so that we can contrast them with God's perfect love!

It has helped me to understand the few times that Agape (or Agapao) is mentioned in the negative, because it explains how otherwise caring and compassionate Christian men and women can have a heart turn cold. How is it that we can so easily turn our hearts toward idols? I think that it is because we have missed the exclusive love (Agape) that God has for us and failed to return that love (Agapao or Agape) toward God or others.  Let's look at the passages:

Passage What they say about love (agape/Agapao) Agape/ Agapao

Matthew 5:46
Luke 6:32

Even sinners those that love them back Agapao

Matthew 6:24
Luke 16:13

The people of the world love money, hate God Agapao

Luke 11:42-43

Religious pride neglects love (agape)  for God and breeds desire (Agapao) for recognition Agape and Agapao

John 3:19

The people of the world love darkness, hate "The Light (Jesus)" Agapao

John 12:43

Worldly religion desires (Agapao) praise from men over praise from God Agapao

2 Timothy 4:10

Loving the world leads to desertion of a brother in need Agapao

2 Peter 2:15

False prophets love the wages of unrighteousness Agapao

1 John 2:15

Loving (Agapao) the world or the things of the world means God's love (Agape) is absent Agapao

1 John 3:18

Showing love with words only is not fulfilling the command to love. Agapao
Matthew 24:12 Persecution, false prophets, and lawlessness will cause love (agape) to fade Agape
Jude 1:12 False prophets use the Lord's Supper as an opportunity for irreverent self-indulgence Agape
Revelation 2:4 Love is abandoned Agape

Agape for good or for bad is exclusive. There is no room for double mindedness when agape is present. Loving the world excludes God and loving God excludes the world. Agape then is the love that holds it's object in higher honor, higher esteem, higher value than any other object. It is the object of our affection that makes agape Christian or moves agape down a destructive path. In Christian Agape the object is God First, and others second (Mark 12:29-31). Worldly agape can be money, praise, self-preservation, lawlessness, possession of the world, self-indulgence, darkness, or any other idol of our heart which we place above our love for God or love for people. Worldly agape and Christian agape cannot coexist according to the word of God.

Sin means that we miss the mark. To me this is most obvious in the things that we esteem the most when they are other than God. The fact that we can agape things that are not of God should shock us to attention. Lead us to self-examination. Force us into the challenging request for God to "Test me, Lord, and try me; examine my heart and mind (Psalms 26:2; HCSB)." Only then can we honestly (without double mindedness) conclude, "For Your faithful love is before my eyes, and I live by Your truth (Psalms 26:3; HCSB)."

Someone pointed out that Agape is not the same word as Agapao.  Agapao is the verb form of Agape (a noun). In English we use the same word love as a noun and a verb. In this respect I do not see Agapao as different type of love from Agape. Agapao is the action of Agape in my understanding.  Here is a verse that helps to define the connection of the words Agape (noun), Agapao (verb), and agapetos (adj). It also gives me a clearer picture of how love is supposed to "work" in our lives.

10 Love (Agape) consists in this: not that we loved (Agapao) God, but that He loved (Agapao)us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends (agapetos), if God loved (Agapao) us in this way, we also must love (Agapao) one another.
1 John 4:10-11

Lord we long to live by Your truth. Our hearts are sick with objects of affection that have replaced You. Examine our hearts and see if there is any evil way within us. Give us courage to face the difficult examination, wisdom to discern, strength to repent, and Your agape love to fill our hearts. In Jesus Name Amen