- Storge, meaning the love of family
- Philia, which is the love of close friends
- Eros, or erotic love
- Agape, the unconditional and sacrificial love of the God who is love (1 John 4:8, 16)
Most of us are very familiar with the first three kinds of love, but not many of us have knowingly experienced agape. Christians see it in action when we look to the cross, meditate on what the Lord does for us day to day, and examine His promises for all eternity. But it’s rare indeed to see agape in action in the here and now.
Yet some of us have the privilege of witnessing it every now and then, when God shines His love through a Christian’s heart and onto those who wouldn’t seem, at least at the moment, to be very lovable.
It is beautiful. Breathtaking, in fact.
I saw it just recently at the nursing home where I hang out, during our monthly Christian Music Hour. We staffers and volunteers were a bit frazzled, running late in assembling folks in the main dining room for this hour of worship and biblical enlightenment.
And so I didn’t take the extra time needed to settle and reassure my dear friend D., who has in recent months become increasingly anxious and fearful; instead, I rolled her geri chair in next to Elivira, a sister in Christ who’s my age. “Please look after D., will you? If she becomes anxious, reassure her until I can get there?”
“Of course,” said my friend, who is herself saddled with disabling disorders that might cause lesser spirits to shrink into self-pity and bitterness.
We handed out the song books and finally got started. Over the course of the next hour, we worshipped the Lord through both a stirring message* and a dozen lovely hymns, from “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee” and “In the Garden” to “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and “Be Still My Soul.”
Since I introduce the songs and man the audio equipment, and since we ran out of song books early on and needed to make more copies, I was preoccupied much of the time. But every time I looked D. and Elvira’s way, I saw an amazing sight: Elvira turned in her wheelchair, gazing at D., singing her heart out, the most beatific expression I’ve ever seen transforming her face into one hour-long display of agape love.
D. stayed calm throughout the hour, even smiling now and then. How could she not, with all that love shining her way and spilling out on everyone in the vicinity?
I don’t know that I’ve ever been so moved in my life.
Sometimes I think back on the wonders I’ve seen in my life, back in my pre-Christian days when I poured all my energy into good times and worldly pleasures. And each time I am blown away by how those pleasures pale in the light of agape love, and the transformative effect it has on those who witness it.
Sadly, it’s a rare sight in this world, reserved perhaps for hard places like nursing homes and prisons, places populated by people who may not seem to warrant any kind of human love, who haven’t earned it through beauty or achievement or genetic bond.
But there’s good news: we don’t have to go far to find such places, to experience the love of God in human hearts, possibly even to serve as a vehicle for it ourselves. These people that Jesus called “the least of these” are all around us; the genuine Christian just needs to go to them, serve them, and love them.
*If you’re reading this via email, please click on the title above to be taken to the original post; you can then click on the “a stirring message” link to hear it yourself.