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What is Real Christian Love?

by David A. DePra

     There are actually three Greek words in the New Testament

which are translated "love," or "charity." One of them is "phileo."

It means "brotherly love," or "friendship." From it we get the name

Philadelphia, or the "city of brotherly love." Another word translated

"love" is "eros." It speaks of marital love. Always it is used of

the love between a man and a woman. From this word, we get

the term "erotic."

     Those are terms indicative of human love. But there is yet a

third term. It is "agape." This word is the word used for the LOVE

of GOD. And it is the term always used when the Bible talks

about the kind of love we Christians should have for others.

     What is "agape," or the love of God?  First, let's see what

"agape" is NOT. Agape is not a fuzzy feeling. It is not "liking"

someone. It is, in fact, not emotional in nature. Of course, we can

possess agape love and "feel" good emotionally. But the agape

itself is NOT emotional in nature.

     Note that because agape is NOT a fuzzy feeling, or liking

someone, or emotional, that the lack of these traits does not

mean we therefore lack the love of God in Christ. In other words,

if I don't have a fuzzy feeling, it doesn't mean I don't love. If I

don't like someone, it doesn't necessarily mean I don't love them.

     The fact is, I can actually be disgusted with someone for what they

do, and for the way they treat others, yet love them with agape


     This enables us to begin defining "agape" -- the love of God.

Agape NEVER depends on the one loved. It ALWAYS depends

on the one doing the loving.

     Get that. If I truly love someone with the love of God, my love

for them does not depend on them. It is independent of them.

It depends on me. I love them no matter what. Unconditionally.

     Of course, this is exactly how God loves us, isn't it? He does

not love us because we are "loveable." He loves us because He

IS love. His love is there as something completely independent

of us. And there is nothing we can do to shut it off.

     Now, this doesn't mean God is going to tell us we are right if

we are wrong. No. Agape never does that. Agape tells the Truth.

But the point is, agape is FOR us -- for our good and betterment.

Love always seeks the eternal best for the one loved.

We are now ready for a more concrete definition of the love

of God -- "agape."

Agape -- God's love -- is the unconditional commitment to God's

highest for the one loved, regardless of personal cost

to me, or to them.

     How such a love is practiced and worked out can be all over

the map. It has to be a case by case basis. But the principle is

there. If I love someone, I am going to want God's highest for

them -- no matter what it takes. And I will stand by this for

them -- whether they thank me, or hate me, for it.

     This definition is clearly God-centered. It has to be. For God

is love. So any agape I possess is really HIS working through


     There are definable traits of agape. All we have to do is read

I Corinthians 13:

Agape endures. Agape is kind. Agape is not envious. Agape

is not self-serving. Agape is not proud. Agape does not behave

unseemly. Agape is not self-centered. Agape is not easily

provoked. Agape does not rejoice in the bad. It rejoices in the

good. And then the conclusion: Agape bears all things, believes

all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

     Now if all of this makes us feel as if we are hopeless as far

as being able to love, it should. Agape is the love of God. It is

not human love. We cannot, of ourselves, generate agape, the

love of God.

     But nevertheless, God tells us to love with agape love. So

how are we going to do that?

     There is only one way to possess agape. We have to allow

agape to possess US. Until I see God loves me and surrender

to His love, I won't have much success loving others. Only if I

embrace the love of God will I be able to love others to any

extent with the love of God.

     Of course, God Himself is said to BE love. (I Jn. 4:8) This

doesn't mean God is an abstract feeling or something like that. It

means God is love personified. God is incapable of doing

anything except it be in agape -- in love -- towards us.

     The Bible says that God demonstrated His love for us in that

He sent Jesus Christ. God, in Christ, took the responsibility for all

sin upon Himself. Thus, we can talk all we want about the things

God gives us, and the things God does for us. But in the final

analysis, the greatest demonstration of God's love is that He gave


     Now, love is not a thing unto itself. It is not a trait for this age

and this life only. Love is eternal, as God is eternal. That's why

Paul says, "Love never fails -- that is -- never passes away."

In fact, in I Corinthians 13, Paul says that most everything will

pass away. But three things will abide:   Faith, hope, and agape.

Everything else is but a vehicle God uses in our lives to build in

us those three things. For it is faith, hope, and love that will

remain of us when this body, and this age, pass away.

     One of the earmarks of discipleship is that we love one

another. Jesus said, "By this men will know you are my disciples,

that you love one another." That means that each Christian is

supposed to be unconditionally committed to God's will for each

other Christian. But we work this out not merely by serving and

doing things for each other. We must lay down our lives, our way,

our pride -- when doing is clears the way for GOD'S purpose.

     God and agape are synonymous. Love is not merely an

characteristic OF God. It IS God in a Person. And that means that

included in agape is holiness, truth, salvation, justice, and if

necessary, chastisement and final judgment. God is going to have

His way. Anything less would not be love. It would be evil. So

the question is, will be allow God to love us? *

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