Agape love is a topic I write and talk about often. One of the most formative sermons I’ve ever preached (formative for me, at least) was on agape love. Agape is one of Ember Church’s core values. I blog about it frequently. We’re talking about it at Ember Outdoors this summer.
Agape love is a major theme of the New Testament, especially the writings of John. In John 13, the apostle writes:
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Of course, every instance of the word “love” in that passage is a translation of the Greek word agape. So you might as well write it like this: A new command I give you: Agape one another. As I have agaped you, so you must agape one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you agape one another.
Jesus said this before he went to the cross, but he referred to his demonstration of agape love in the past tense. What was he talking about? He was talking about how he had just washed his disciples’ feet. That was an act of agape love, one that resonated deeply within their own souls, and should be paradigmatic for the way in which they ought to relate to one another.
But washing their feet wasn’t the only act of agape love Jesus would commit that week. It was the very next day that he was brutally tortured and killed on a roman cross, dying as the final sacrifice for the sins of all humanity.
The sweet spot of agape love is between the washbasin and the cross. In the washbasin, Jesus set aside his rights, privilege, and honor as the world’s true king to perform the duties of the lowliest household servant–washing the filthy feet of 12 nomads, one who would, just hours later, betray him. At the cross he laid down his life and forgave the sins of humanity.
Jesus didn’t just talk about agape love, he defined it. He demonstrated it. He lived, and yes, died, it. The agape love of Jesus encompasses the washbasin and the cross, and this is the same agape love which he demands of us.
“A new command”, he said. Like the first two: “Love YHWH your God…”, and “Love your neighbor.” Now a third. “Love one another.” Agape one another. Agape one another with a washbasin, and with a cross. The love of Jesus was no sentimental affection; it was both dirty and bloody. And that’s the kind of love he expects from us: agape love.
Whenever you’re not sure how to love somebody, just remember how Jesus loved us, and that the sweet spot of agape love is between the washbasin and the cross.