In the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32), Jesus described how the father extends extravagant grace to both the rebellious, sinful younger son and the arrogant, self-righteous elder brother. The father’s love for his selfish sons illustrates the very nature of God.
In Greek, there are several words for love, including eros, meaning romantic, sensual love; philia, friendly, brotherly love; and agape, unmerited, self-sacrificing love. The love of God is agape, the kind of unfailing, undeserved love that compelled the Creator of the universe to become our incarnate rescuer. God’s ultimate act of agape was “that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
How can we extend agape to others? You’ll find examples in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Try reading the passage aloud, replacing the word “love” with your name. Are you patient, are you kind? Can you say you’re not boastful, not selfish, that you keep no record of wrongs? Human love often falls short because we bring our own agendas into relationships. Agape upends this self-centeredness by its very definition.
Love in the agape sense is an action, rather than a feeling. What’s the most selfless thing you can do for someone else? Perhaps it means listening without judgment, persevering with someone through long trials and periods of suffering, or showing compassion even in the face of unpleasant behavior. Our love toward others shouldn’t be based on whether they’ve earned kindness and mercy. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19)—even when we least deserved it.
Heather Ebert is a writer and editor based in Nashville, Tenn. When she’s not crafting copy, she’s crafting adventures in world travel. You can read her blog at gettingcreative.me and follow her on Twitter: @heatherebert.