My friend Kimberly (names have been changed to protect the awesome) is one of the most loving people I know. If I had to name one person who personifies Jesus in this area of love, it would be Kimberly. She finds the good in eveyone. She shows by her expressions and tone of voice that she is glad to see you and wants the best for you. She never speaks badly about anyone. She gives affection, service, and warmth, expecting nothing in return – no strings attached. Kimberly loves with agape love.
Agape love does not come naturally or easily, but with God we can be more like Jesus (I Thessalonians 5:23-24). Kimberly shared her struggle with me: “We will always be trusting the Lord to help us with this.”
Before, I had talked about God’s agape love for us manifested in His benevolence and desire to always to do what is best for us, even when we don’t deserve it. Jesus commanded us to love each other as He loves us. (John 13:34-35) In Following Christ, Joe Stowell gives an explanation of Christ’s love: “Christ’s kind of love doesn’t require that we fully like everything about the people we are caring for. It does require that we are fully interested in their needs and that we respond to them, not necessarily because they deserve it, but because we are committed to following Christ and replicating His responses to people.”
Agape love cares about other people and shows kindness to them, not because they deserve it but because that is what agape love is. If we want to be like our Lord, know Him better, and shine for Him, we must love others with agape love – because that is what Jesus did for us when we were the ones spitting in his face, denying him in our words and choices, and hammering the nails through his hands and feet (Romans 5:8).
Agape love covers a lot of relationship mud and muck, doesn’t it? Agape love obliterates our desire to criticize and compare and takes away our need to be a people pleaser or to give in to peer pressure; it allows us to see our sister in Christ – or any friend – for who she is. It keeps us from sinking neck deep in the grating-personality quicksand, because we see the person as God sees her. Remember the story where I responded unlovingly to my I-don’t-like-your-grating-personality person? If I had started out operating in agape love, the party would have started out more fun, and I would have been spared a talking-to by God. I would have wanted this person to enjoy the party. I would have seen past what bothered me about her and, instead, would have seen all that God was doing through her and in her; and I would have been open to learn from her sooner. Had I operated in agape love at the outset, I would have been more blessed.
God loves us without expecting anything in return (I John 4:9-10, John 3:16, Luke 15:11-24). For a while, I’ve been watching this elderly couple in my church as they live out this aspect of agape love. For several years now, the wife is slowly showing more and more symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The husband still is her primary caregiver. I assume he always will remain so. He has still honored her and shown her so much respect. There are times, when due to the conditions of the diasease, she doesn’t act very lovingly towards him. Because of Alzheimer’s, she will eventually get to the place where she will never be able to return his love. She might not even recognize him. I’m sure that he will still love and care for her. That’s agape love.
God does what is best for us (Matthew 7:7-11); he does good to us (Psalm 145:8-9). We show agape love to others by doing what is best for them. This may be as obvious as helping them with a project or giving Biblical advice. A false understanding of agape love is that we must do for others whatever they ask; but that is not always agape love. Sometimes the help others ask for enables them to stay in their sin, so agape love must say no. That might not look like love, but loves does not enable people to continue in their sinful, destructive ways.
Say, someone you know is addicted to one of the many “vices.” They call you one night begging for money. You know they will spend it on their “vice.” Even though they beg and cry, it would not be in their best interest to give them the money so they could continue in their sinful ways. Their best interest might be for them to face the consequences of their wrong choices. Sometimes God let us face the consequences of our sin so we are motivated to turn from it and obey Him. Love says, “I won’t help you hurt yourself or others anymore. I still care about you and will pray for you. I will visit you, but I won’t help you continue in your sin.”
Love wants what is best. The strong, confident princess wants the best for others and shows kindness and graciousness to all.