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Love & Relationships

What is Agape Love? Definition, Meaning, and Examples

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Love can take many forms. 

Love can be as simple as saying, “I love pasta” or “I love that song.” But it can also mean telling those closest to us what they mean to us. 

There’s a type of love that doesn’t get mentioned very often, called agape love. Simply put, agape love is the highest kind of love. This love is more than we could ever hope or imagine, and the Bible speaks of it over 200 times as selfless, sacrificial love.

But where did this term come from?

In this article, we’ll show you what agape love means, as well as examples of what it looks like.  

What is agape love?

There are four different kinds of love: storge, eros, philia, and agape.

Storge is known as affection or familial love. Even though the Bible doesn't use this word, the concept is present. 

The basis of storge is familiarity. No matter who one's family is, whether blood-related or not, when someone has storge love, they'll love their family regardless of external factors and circumstances. 

We can often take a comforting affection like storge for granted, but it can also hold great power.

Eros is romantic love. Like storge, the word eros doesn't appear in the Bible, despite its importance in many Old Testament stories. Eros, the root word for “erotic,” encompasses sexual love and romantic love.

Couples in love are often filled with eros. They can be completely preoccupied with each other, which isn’t always a good thing. But if accompanied by other forms of love, such as storge, eros can be a positive force in a romantic relationship.

ceiling of the Sistine chapel

Philia is friendship love. Whereas lovers are bonded to each other through eros, philia occurs from bonding over similar interests. 

In addition to caring about one another, friends are attracted to one another because of similar interests. Modern culture often overlooks philia, but the Bible encourages its practice. 

In Romans 12:10, Paul urges the believers to be devoted to one another in brotherly philia. Philia can be strongly associated with agape as well, considering in John 15:13, Jesus said that there’s no greater agape than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

Agape can be defined as charity. Nowadays, we tend to think of charity as giving away money or things, but that doesn't encompass agape's full scope. When we love in agape, we aren't concerned with our own good but with the greatest good of another. 

The will to act is what awakens agape — not just emotions, feelings, familiarity, or attraction. One could even argue that agape love is real love in its purest form. 

The four loves are all important in their own way. But why is agape love considered the highest form of love?

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Agape love in the Bible

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The Greeks understood proper agape as a general love for all people. 

In the Bible, it’s said that Christians should care for everyone. But early Christians took that idea a step further, using God as the standard for true agape. 

A love that flows from God, according to the Bible, is true agape love. He's characterized by love that isn't sentimental. From the depths of His being, God loves. 

bible on a couch

The love God shows us is undeserved, gracious, and selfless. 

In sending Jesus to save us, God demonstrated agape love in its purest form: unconditional love. When God sent Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners, He showed us the standard for agape love. We saw the true love of the Heavenly Father as we felt the depth of His love through Jesus. 

God commands us to love others with agape love. Through actions, agape is a clear choice to work for the highest good of another. 

Agape love Bible verses

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Jesus demonstrated to His followers that they must love one another with the same sacrifice He did. This demanded a new form of love, a love that was like Christ’s own: agape love. 

Now that you have a better grasp of what agape means, let’s take a look at some examples in scripture. 

1 John 4:8-10 

“Anyone who doesn't love doesn't know God because God is love. In this, the love of God was made manifest among us that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we've loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

John 3:16 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him shouldn't perish but have eternal life.”

1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

“Love is patient and kind; love doesn't envy or boast; it isn't arrogant or rude. It doesn't insist on its own way; it isn't irritable or resentful; it doesn't rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Ephesians 5:1-2 

“Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

All you need is agape love

When left to our own devices, love dissipates and deteriorates. 

But if we abide in Jesus Christ and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, God will empower us to seek divine love in a way that's otherwise impossible. 

For more on love in the Bible, download the app in the iOS App Store or Google Play.

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