Our world desires true love. Not just run-of-the-mill love. But heart-fluttering, toe-tapping, blissful, satisfying love. Valentine’s Day alone proves this.
For Christians it’s no different. Pastors all across the country speak on true love. Christian book stores make millions selling the idea of "agape love" and the seemingly magical qualities it possesses.
Agape love is an incredible concept described in Scripture. But sometimes, so many books and sermons come out on a topic that it pollutes our perception of what it means. Agape love is an example of that. Here are three common misconceptions Christians have about agape love:
Misconception #1: Agape Love is the Good Kind of Love
I often hear pastors discuss the “good kinds” of love verses the “bad kinds” of love. When doing so, they‘re usually talking about the Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, which highlights the four concepts of love held by the Greeks during the writing of the New Testament.
As a result of his work, pastors often dismiss "physical love" or "friendship love" as shallow, yet describe agape love as meaningful. But there is no such thing as bad love. All love comes from God. The problem is people often use love as a label for their sin.
In fact, God made all four forms of love: family love, physical love, sacrificial love, and friendship love. Each one is good in the way God designed it. But all four loves can also be distorted and changed from something true and valuable to something false and cheap. Agape love is no exception.
The terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center martyred themselves for a cause. That doesn’t mean they had agape love. Agape love means more than just sacrifice. People sacrifice for others all the time. Most of the time it's in hopes of getting something in return. A spouse might sacrifice in one way hoping that the other sacrifices in another. In this sense, agape love ceases to be love at all, and transforms into a manipulative tool to serve oneself rather than the other person. Agape love, like all forms of love, can be misused.
Misconception #2: Agape Love Originates from the Bible
The New Testament used the Greek term “agape” more than any other word to describe love. Because of this, most Christians assume that agape love is a Christian invention.
But the word agape existed long before the New Testament. The earliest accounts show it being used by epic poets like Homer to describe relationships on the battlefield. Generals would love their soldiers with agape love. Soldiers would fight and die for each other because of agape. Agape love was the love of the battlefield.
All these expressions of agape love had one thing in common. They all expressed a love based on identity. A soldier loved a comrade because he identified with that person. By loving him, that solder was also loving himself.
Agape love did not always mean the Cross. But that doesn’t diminish its importance of the Gospel. It helps us understand the Gospel better.
Misconception #3: True Agape Love Can Occur Without Christ
Many Christians like Christ-like love, but don’t like Christ. In fact, the world has taken Christian love hostage. People post verses about love on social media yet reject the Author of those verses.
If agape love is the love of identity, then the only way to truly express agape love is by finding one’s identity in Jesus Christ. This can only happen through personal faith and repentance in what He did on the Cross. One must identify with Jesus to love like Jesus. To love like Christ apart from Him is impossible.
People act like that with which they identify. One who identifies as an American will seek to act like an American. One who identifies as a cat will act like a cat. Our identity needs to be found in Christ. One cannot find true love without finding identity in He who personifies it. This means choosing to surrender your own identity and choosing to take on His. The Biblical word for this is repentance. By knowing the Author of love, one can also know love.
Everybody has an opinion on love. This will certainly not be the only article written on love this week.
And maybe that’s the problem. We spend too much time talking about love and not enough time showing it.
As John said in 1 John 3:18, “Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.” No amount of books or trendy blog posts will ever solve the problem that agape love on the Cross can solve. The world doesn’t need love, it needs the Author of love. Let’s point people to the Author of love by acting like Him.
Resting in Him,