Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I was inspired by all the love-and-romance-themed posts over the past year and typed about 70% of this out.  I tried to publish this a week ago, but it kinda grew out of control (at least, for a blog post).  Here's my description of agape at its most concise.

Agape is a Greek word that was more or less invented by the men who wrote the New Testament. It is a derivative of a Hebrew word that the ancients used to describe the love of a family, the love of a husband or wife and the love of God.

Probably the best way to describe it in everyday language is love "regardless of...". Or "in spite of...". "...even though...".
I love you in spite of your neurotic perfectionism.
I love you regardless of the fact that you forget to fill the car up with gas.
I love you despite your tendency to get distracted while I'm talking.

Notwithstanding our mismatched personalities.

Even though I know you may never change.

I love you anyway.
One dictionary describes it as "true even though there are obstacles and opposing conditions". When we say "in spite of" the literal meaning is that we're going to do something in disregard and defiance to the obstacle at hand. The culture says, "Let's see what we have in common." Agape says, "I'm going to defy your fault in order to love you." The attitude of today's world is at arm's length; the attitude of love is an arm around.
These are the things that make us most uncomfortable. These are the things that carry the most risk. And these are the things that keep the walls from going up.

It's not just unconditional love. It's more nuanced than that. This is not about abusive relationships, addictions, desertion and estrangement. It seems like a lot of people are trying to forgive and love their way into a healthy relationship where no real relationship exists. Agape is about real relational love where people know they're supposed to love each other but still sometimes struggle to make it happen. (Though the other subject is definitely worth more thought and study.)

Paul the Apostle wrote that agape was the "more excellent way".  "Excellent" comes from the ancient Greek word hyperbole.  I probably don't have to tell you this, but that means "beyond measure".  In other words, excellent love is a thing that reaches beyond what's deserved.

It's over the top. It's beyond. It's more than just a bond formed by a common cause. That kind of love just happens. Agape is on purpose, it's active and you have to work for it.

I don't know about you, but I'm gonna get to work.

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