The verb love has taken on a dull uniformity in our world today. We “love” everything from newborn babies to the new coffee shop down the street. Though our love for these things is different, the English language doesn’t do a great job of distinguishing between our love of ice cream and the love you have for your best friend. However, the Greek language used in the Bible does.
Agape / Love
The New Testament distinguishes four different kinds of love, using a specific word for each.
- Eros is the word used to describe romantic love.
- Philia is a friendship love, in which people are “drawn together” over common interests.
- Storge is a familial love – often used to describe a parent’s love for a child.
- Agape is the word used to describe the love of God.
Agape love, in the Bible, comes from God. His love isn’t a naive, dewy-eyed love; His love is part of his character. God loves because it’s who he is. Agape is given with no expectation that it be given back. This is the way that God loves us. Agape is also the word that Paul uses to describe why God sent his Son, “But God shows his agape love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) The season of Advent is a season of understanding God’s love for us. It’s a season of remembering a great act of love – God becoming human.
Love with Us
Generation after generation, God remained faithful to his people even when they doubted him, questioned him, and turned away from him. God STILL kept his promise that he had made to David long ago. (2 Samuel 7:16) Jesus, who was fully God and fully human, (Philippians. 2:7) was born in a humble manger, lived his life on earth amongst average people like you and me, and eventually sacrificed himself on the cross so that we could live forever in complete unity with Him.
Our Call to Advent Love
Today, we look back and remember that first advent. Agape is not just the love that God has for us, but it’s the way that he has called us to love him in return, and to love one another.
“God’s own love was revealed when he sent his one and only Son into the world so that through Him, we could have life.” – 1 John 4:9
“Beloved ones, if that’s how God has loved us then we ought to show love to one another.” – 1 John 4:11
Human love, even in its finest moments, can only whisper of the pure and holy love of God. So how could we possibly love in this way? First, look to the Christmas story. It’s all about love. It’s a love that says, “I am willing to love you no matter what.” When we begin to see ourselves as unworthy recipients of the agape of God, we naturally begin to love others (including our enemies) with this “no matter what” kind of love. We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) Yes, it will cost us something. It probably won’t cost us our life; but it may cost us our pride, our comfort, our preferences, our popularity… But lay these worries aside and look to Jesus. Reflect on the love of Christmas. Receive it, and pass it along.
Questions for Reflection:
- Think about the most loving person you have ever known. How did he or she show love?
- How does what you’ve learned about God’s agape love, change your perspective on the Christmas story?
- Who is a person or group of people that is most difficult for you to love? What would it cost you to love them with Agape love?
- Read 1 John 4:7-21. According to this scripture, how can we learn to love those that are difficult to love?
Advent at Home Activity: Love
The Giving Manger
The Giving Manger is a fun and interactive tool you can use with your family to help focus on the true meaning of Christmas. The instructions are simple! Place your manger somewhere in the home, and fill it with acts of kindness. Instruct your kids that every time they are kind to someone, do an act of service for someone else, or love others really well, they can place one piece of straw in baby Jesus’ manger to prepare for his coming.
The set comes with a book to read together as a family, along with a little wooden manger, straw and baby Jesus. Or you can just purchase the manger alone here!
1 John 4:11-16
1 Corinthians 13:1-8
Written by: Emily Alters
Wilkin, Jen. “God Most Loving.” In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character. Crossway, 2018, pp. 45-55.