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
Love Your Neighbor
Jesus may not have meant it quite so literally – to love your neighbor as yourself, (Mark 12:30-31) but this could be a wonderful way for your kids to act out love this Christmas!
Explain to them the love that Jesus has for them, and that all he asks in return is that we love Him and love others with that same love. Then dream up something you could do for a neighbor (or neighbors) on Christmas Eve.
- First, decide on a neighbor that you want to love on.
- Brainstorm what you are going to do for them. Maybe it’s as simple as a basket of cookies and a note on their doorstep (*in this case, encourage the little ones to knock on the door, while you stand back, and hand deliver your gift in-person!) Or maybe it’s an elder man or woman, and you could bring them their mail and give them a cheery, “Merry Christmas!”
It’s simple, but the joy that it will bring to both your neighbors, your kids, and even you as you sit back and watch their little hearts grow will be a WIN, WIN, WIN!
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.