There are at least four different Greek words which can be translated as ‘love’. They describe different kinds: unconditional love, affectionate love, romantic love and family-type love. Most of us are acquainted with the affectionate love of friendship and the fondness we feel for close family; some of us have experienced romance; but only a few know the depth and quality of unconditional love. Translated from the Greek word ‘agape’, this describes Yahweh’s own love. The Amplified Bible, augmenting John’s statement that Yahweh is love states, “He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature” [1 John 4:8].
On the night before He died, Yahshua said to His disciples, “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” [John 13:34]. These men had enjoyed three years of friendship and affection, but brotherly love was not going to be enough. Yahshua wanted to ‘upgrade’ to agape! It was so important that He made it a commandment! He added that this quality of love would become a recognisable hallmark of discipleship [v.35]. Agape is more than sentiment or emotion; it is a required activity of every disciple. Since it is central in Yahweh’s own nature, it should be no surprise that He requires it to be central in us!
Agape will express itself through sacrifice. It will enable us to pour out our lives in service of others, frequently driving us beyond ourselves, but giving us more strength than we are capable of. Because humans are made in Yahweh’s image we have a natural capacity for unconditional love, but when we have Yahshua in our lives that capacity will increase immensely. The more we focus on Yahshua, the more that love will develop in us. The apostle John wrote, “[Yahweh] is love, and the man whose life is lived in love does, in fact, live in [Yahweh], and Yahweh does, in fact, live in him. So our love for him grows more and more…[and] we realise that our life in this world is actually his life lived in us”[1 John 4:16b-17, J.B. Phillips].