What is Agape?

As a kid, I’d heard this word in church and at home.  I never really knew what it meant.  I did know it was spelled agape but pronounced ah-gah-pay.  So when I saw it in print, as in “they stood there with their mouths agape,” I thought I knew what it meant.

But that’s not it at all.  Agape is love for humanity.  No strings, love simply because they are God’s creation.  We love others because God loves them.

Christianity has earned a reputation as a religion of hate.  Yet throughout God’s Holy Word, we are taught to love one another.  Nowhere in the book does it say to “Love your neighbor if they are good people.”  Nor are we commanded to “Have mercy only on those who believe just like you do.”

God tells us to love our neighbors as He loves us.  Have mercy as He does.  It’s like I tell the guys in prison – the only difference between them and me is that they’re in here and I’m not.  We’re all sinners in God’s eyes.  And sin separates us from Him.  A bridge to God has been built to us by Christ.  And if we are to cross that bridge, we need to follow His commands.

Love God.  Love each other.

Hosea admonished Israel to love others despite religious differences.  “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6, NIV.  Giving a meal to the homeless is more important than giving money to God.  Visiting the sick and imprisoned means more to God than showing up on Sunday morning.

And somehow we have missed out on all of this.  Somehow we have decided that we are to be the APF (Almighty Police Force), enforcing God’s laws on this earth.  If you sin, we will condemn you with all the power we think Jesus has given us.   This includes right worship, personal choices, sins of commission and omission…  We have appointed ourselves judge and jury.

But God desires mercy, not sacrifice.  He doesn’t care how we worship, as long as we worship.  How did Jesus convert sinners?  Other than the religious right of the day, He did not wave scrolls over their heads and tell them they were going to hell.  He smiled, healed their infirmities and said, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you!” (John 5:14, NIV)  Or, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11, KJV)

People don’t like Christians.  They don’t want to be associated with us because the world thinks we’re all psychotic.  And they have good reason for that.  It’s because we have forgotten how to love.

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