After writing on the fourth form of love, agape/agapao for the last seventy-five minutes, I just accidentally deleted the post. So I will have to start again. Such is Lent and agape. God has his reasons.
I could go again into how the Greeks used the verb form but the noun only once in all the extant literature; how it wasn’t until the Septuagint (3rd to 1st centuries B.C.) that the noun (agape) came into to its own. The verb was colorless, often just a synonym for one of the other words. In essence, it was not until the noun was biblically defined, that it took on the meanings we attach to it today. Love as agape/agapao was/is truly defined by God himself.
As we said before, this word defines a form of love that is unconditional and utterly voluntary. If you were to dig down to its deepest root, you would find that it is fundamentally sacrificial. While eros looks at another and seeks to possess their worth, agape looks at the lacking and extends to them worth, honor, and dignity where none previously existed. Where eros takes for itself, agape gives of itself.
Agape is the essence of the Christian bond, the glue that binds the family of God together. With that in mind, Paul wrote a section in his first letter to the Corinthians, which to most of the world has come to define the essence of agape. He explains over and over what agape is and is not. Without it all other gifts, talents, and abilities are nothing, at best empty shells lacking substance and at worst destructive. In the end, agape is what matters and it gives meaning to everything else.
But more than that, the apostle John reveals to us in his first epistle that agape is utterly unique. It is a gift from God himself, for it is he who defines it and makes it available to all who will embrace it. In addition, God reveals through John that agape is an essential aspect of his own divine nature and we cannot claim him without it claiming us, for in embracing God we embrace agape and following the path of agape will lead us directly to him with whom we all have to do.
It is agape that sets our God apart from all other pretenders to the throne and makes Christianity unique in the religions of the world. Redemption depends on it. The cross is anchored in it. History turns on its key expression in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is the greatest mystery and the commonest expression. It is in all that God has to do with us.
So there, a slightly shortened rewrite, but hopefully adequate and to the point. Tomorrow and for the next thirty-five days I will flesh out the significance of these four words. I encourage your input.
May God grant you the grace to embrace the fullness of agape, the peace to express it to others as often as necessary, and the persistence to hold it fast to your heart to the very end.
Hi William, I apologize for not coming by for so long. I’ll make the usual plea of work. Anyway, now that I’ve made it, I suddenly remembered it was this time last year, around Lent, that I first found your blog. A year has gone by. I don’t know what to say about my middle-aged sense of time that hasn’t been said countless times before. The days seem over before they begin.
Sorry to hear you lost so much work, a sacrifice for Lent then?
“We cannot claim him without it (agape) claiming us”. I’ll remember that.
In Christ, Jan
Happy anniversary, Jan. Yes, there is so much to do. I am reminded of the words of St. Francis in Brother Son, Sister Moon:
Do few things,
But do them well;
Take your time;