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God's Perfect Love What is Agape Love?

While the world sees love as an emotion, God speaks of it as the embodiment of His essence. Perfect love is the unchangeable, unconditional, undying love of God. 

"God is love [agape (ah-gah-paye) love]" (1 John 4:8; John 3:16).

There are four words for love in the Greek New Testament language: apape, eros, philos and storge. In English, there is only one word - love. 

Perfect love is not eros (erotic love), nor is it philos (brotherly or friendship love), nor is it storge (family love). These kind of loves are imperfect, conditional and can be lost.

God's love is perfect. No one can manufacture agape love apart from God. God is agape love. 

Agape is a love that is a remarkable phenomenon. It's exhilarating to meditate on Apostle Paul's definition of God's unconditional love. Why? Because it is the kind of love we are always striving to obtain. Knowing that it is available to each of us through His Holy Spirit is the foundation for our hope. 

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Apape love is much more than a fleeting feeling of warmth that overcomes us. It is God's love inside of us; to be set free and poured out on others. The absence of our feelings does not indicate the absence of agape love. In other words, even though we don't always feel it, "God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

However, agape love is not just an ideal. It is God's love with which He loves us and which He gives us to demonstrate to other people by loving them completely; with forgiveness and without any blame. It is the only kind of love that lasts forever and is unconditional.  

But in order for us to love unconditionally, we must allow ourselves to be loved unconditionally. For many, this is a relentless task, as the world, (and including ourselves) continue to judge what we say and do. People feel unworthy of God's love.

We can only demonstrate unconditional love when we are "born again" into the family of God, where Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, removes our condemnation (Romans 8:1), and breaks down the walls of self-persecution - He restores us with his unbounding love and grace.

Jesus told a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (John 3:1-36)

Apostle Paul tells us in the book of Romans, Chapter 10, verses 9 and 10 that "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

When agape love is demonstrated in our lives and our marriages, it is a witness to the world that Jesus is our Saviour and Lord. Jesus said, "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44).

If love were something one could fall in and out of according to positive or negative feelings, how would it be possible to obey this command? 

Jesus tells us in John, chapter 13, verse 34 and 35: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love (agape) one another, even as I have loved (agape) you; that you also love (agape) one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love (agape) for one another."

Agape love is evident in those who have received the indwelling or baptism of the Holy Spirit. Many people who do not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit attempt to imitate agape love as if it were an attainable goal. To their dismay, their constant failures convince them that it is only an unattainable ideal, and that failure is inevitable.

In my experience, almost all cases of the indwelling or baptism of the Holy Spirit (as in the book of Acts), comes as a second experience - it is an essential part of the Salvation package. The initial evidence is "tongues," a spiritual language given to us by the Holy Spirit.

"All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." (Acts 2:4)

"He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;..." (Mark 16:16-17)

"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Matthew 3:11)

When we have received the baptism of Jesus (the Holy Spirit); we can receive His agape love and its capacity to forgive endlessly - or as Jesus puts it, "seventy times seven," or 490 times every day (Matthew 18:21-22). The conditional loves - eros, philos and storge do not allow for this type of forgiveness. 

A person can only love with agape love after they have been loved and forgiven by Jesus and, by Him, empowered with the Holy Spirit. Don't expect to be able to love anyone this way and maintain it for any period of time without being "born again" and "spirit-filled" - it is just unrealistic and unattainable. 

So much so, that I have seen people who have attended church services regularly (but were not "born again" Christians) have complete breakdowns. Some have gone as far as to end up in psychiatric wards because they've tried to love others the way that Jesus told us to love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) and it just didn't work! 

The bottom line is that you cannot give God's perfect agape love if you have not received or been filled with it. 

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