All you need is love, love…
Students at a Bible college can’t escape parsing definitions of Biblical concepts like salvation, sanctification, or the ever-contentious predestination. Whether because it’s an assignment (all you Systematic Theology students can groan!) or because it becomes a favorite pastime, it’s a fact that being able to explain Biblical ideas in your own words has tremendous value for growing you into God’s Word.
I’m curious if you have come up with your own definition of agapē yet? We have had some amazing chapels fleshing out what this means and what it looks like. Here are a few of my reflections…
Agapē requires great courage. It is true that people are desperately needy, but that doesn’t mean they feel needy. Often sin’s deceptions so enrage men’s hearts that they will defiantly and passionately seek to devastate everything Good in the name of good. Christ knew when He took on flesh, He was offering the Cure to many who would love their sin so much that they would destroy themselves even as they sought His annihilation. No wonder Christ had to set His face like flint to endure the “suffering, opposition and humiliation” from the people He loves (Isaiah 50:7; Face like Flint). To agapē people is to choose to enter their hatred as well as their need.
Agapē requires wisdom from above. Jesus knew He could not come and just annihilate evil. To destroy evil would be to destroy His beloved people whose hearts are corrupted with evil. So instead of vanquishing evil (yet!), He came with a far greater power, agapē. Christ entered this sin-infested world and endured every ugly weapon evil has in its arsenal, culminating in the Cross.
Evil spent all its power at the Cross. The Resurrection proves that Love is stronger than Evil. Agapē in our world does not eliminate evil but overcomes it. What other power is capable of using evil to achieve good? That is the paradox of the power of suffering we embrace when we agapē.
Finally, only the people who experience agapē can become capable of living it toward others. Why does God allow such horrendous evil in the world? Maybe it’s because without experiencing the deep depravity of our corruption, we could never learn the agapē of God. Without knowing agapē, we would never really know Him for Who He is. And if His goal is to create us to be like Himself, then we need to know His agapē in order to become like Him.
God wants all people to know Him. While only God can break through sin’s deception in man’s heart, He has chosen us to reveal Himself through. That means transforming us into people capable of His agapē. Who but God could do this?! But what effect would it have on the malevolent evil all around us if we were capable of the courage and wisdom to love as Jesus does?
So, what is your definition agapē? My working definition is to “always seek the very Best for the other.” I’d love to hear yours…
– Noël Maxwell, Library Director