What Is Agape Love And Its Role In Modern Relationships

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Love – a beautiful word, a beautiful feeling, one that we have all felt in various forms at various points in our lives. The care and feelings you have for your father, your mother, your pet, your friends, family, work, and your partner – it’s all love. But you know it well, your love for each one of them is very different from another. The question is which one of these can you call agape love? 

It’s said, a mother’s love is the purest form of love. Love without expectations, its unconditional love, the sacrificial love, one that you call divine love. Above all other forms of love that exist, it’s agape love. Can love between two romantic partners mimic these qualities? Can couples aspire to love in its highest and purest form? And should they? Let’s take a closer look at agape love and its place in modern relationships to understand. 

What Is Agape Love?

Agape is a Greek word, agapē. Pronounced as uh-gah-pay, agape love is spread throughout the New Testament with different variations. The term has a very simple and beautiful meaning the essence of which is captured in Jesus’ love for humankind, and his children. Hence, it is also known as God’s love. 

There are many types of love but agape represents the love Jesus Christ displayed for His father and His followers. It is considered to be the highest form of love ever witnessed. It is selfless and sacrificial. Agape is the love you have for someone without any expectations in return. The feeling that makes you happy to sacrifice, that teaches you to be selfless and put the needs and good of your loved one above yourself. 

The unconditional love Jesus Christ displayed for his followers, represented by the cross, where he sacrificed himself for the sins of those he loved is what agape is. It’s much more than just a feeling, it’s about actually caring and showing this love and care with your actions. We know agape love as God’s love, it’s not only because of the love Jesus Christ displayed through His sacrifice. But as the Bible says, God’s all-encompassing and unconditional love for the world made him send his only Son, Jesus Christ to save us all. 

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“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV) Accordingly to Aristotle’s theory, presented in the paper The Philosophy and Social Science of Agape Love in the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, this is one of the derived definitions of Agape – “From a virtue-ethics position, the Essence or Species is this: Agape love is a moral virtue in which a person willingly and unconditionally offers goodness, at a cost to the giver, to another or others in need.”

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Now that we are talking about agape love, it is important to know all other types of love and what makes agape not only different but the highest form of love. 

  • Eros: Eros stands for sensual and romantic love. The word erotic was derived from Eros. It appeals to the sexual desires of a person and leads to erotic love. Lovers are attracted to each other, fulfilling each other’s critical needs in a relationship for sensual and sexual love
  •  Philia: Philia explains your love for your friends. Friendship love has always been considered the happiest form of love. In simple terms, Philia is the type of love that helps people bond over similar interests, passions, stories, and other things
  •  Storge: Other words for Storge can be affection and familial love, the one we share with our family members. This love is because of familiarity and shared blood instead of desires or shared interests. It gives you comfort and trust, all because of the familiarity, which is otherwise quite difficult to find these days 
  • Agape: Unlike any other form of love mentioned in the Bible, the very nature of Agape love is not self-seeking. The unconditional, selfless, sacrificial love is what makes Agape the highest form of love ever felt or witnessed. It is also known as charity. But this is not the kind of charity we know of today, which revolves around materialism. This charity is about faith, commitment, and most of all sacrifice. This is the true form of what we call “love without expectations in relationships” 

Important References Of Agape Love In The Bible And Their Meanings

As we established earlier, variations of agape love are spread throughout the New Testament, representing God’s love for his children and his command for them to love one another. Here is a look up close at some of those references and their meaning:

1. The command to love one another unconditionally 

Jesus loved all humankind equally and unconditionally. He came with one purpose, the purpose of spreading peace and love. All he wanted from his followers was the same kind of love He had for them. He asked them to display a new kind of love, a love that is not bound by pleasure or blood. He wanted them to love each other in the same way He loved them all – selflessly and unconditionally, sacrificing and doing what it takes for the well-being and happiness of the other. 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have a love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, ESV)

“By this, we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our  lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16, ESV)

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2. Love Is God, God Is Love

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:21, NIV)

“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:23, ESV)

This is where Jesus told his followers that if they loved each other the same way He loved them, he would know that they love him, more so by their actions of fulfilling his command. He says that the ones who love Him will be loved by His Father, the Almighty, and by Him. He explains that He resides in everyone and everyone resides in Him and loving His children is the highest form of love for Him. 

3. The Love Feast

Love feast is a meal at the early church which expresses brotherhood and fellowship. It is a common meal where all Christians came alike to eat together, symbolizing fellowship leading to brotherhood and togetherness. “These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted” (Jude 12, ESV)

What Does Agape Love Mean In A Relationship?

As mentioned above, the very nature of Agape love is selfless, but any relationship could benefit when Agape is mutual. But what does agape love mean in romantic relationships, really? In a relationship, Agape can be accompanied by either of the other two forms of love  – Eros or Philia. And when both the people in a relationship are concerned and ready to sacrifice for the other, their bond only grows along with the ease of the relationship. This simple Greek word makes a relationship about the happiness of the other person.

You can witness Agape in various types of relationships, even in the realm of romantic love. Partners care for each other, they give their love unconditionally, put each other’s needs above their own, and sacrifice in their own little or even big ways. Agape love between man and woman has existed forever, it is what bonds them on a higher level, something beyond comprehension. 

As the paper, The Philosophy and Social Science of Agape Love says,  “The Specific Difference is this: No other form of love is as deliberately self-giving and deliberately costly in terms of consciously, willingly, and actively giving up energy, material possessions, comfort, and/or safety for the good of another or others. Agape does not necessarily share the mutuality that is embedded in the other forms of love, although it certainly can be mutual as in a partnering relationship in which each gives to the other.”

But at the same time, this simple Greek word can seem unrealistic and difficult to manifest in relationships. Sometimes people start giving so much in the name of unconditional love that they shove self-love out the window and begin to lose themselves in the process. 

Such love can become a toxic relationship for one or both partners. Many renowned psychologists and life coaches believe that we have limited emotional and mental energy and that we absorb the energy of the people we interact with, whether it’s positive or negative. This is where the problem and the solution lie. 

When one person spends too much of their positive energy and absorbs nothing or only negative energy, the relationship starts to build a crack, which only deepens with time. It is also very common when you don’t understand agape completely, and you keep sacrificing for the other person and suppress your own needs and desires. Over time it builds frustration in partners which ends up being ugly for the relationship. 

It becomes essential to balance agape and practice self-love in any relationship to keep it healthy and long-lasting. As human beings, we all have needs to be met and agape doesn’t stand in the way. It is never about mindless sacrifices, it’s truly about doing right by the person you love, even if it’s difficult. The key here is communication, which is vital for every relationship. 

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5 Signs Of Agape Love In A Relationship

The Agape love symbol originates from the ancient Greek word agapē, which dates back to the 1600s. That means it’s no new concept. People have been offering Agape, knowingly or unknowingly. As we discussed above, it is important to balance agape love and self-love. Now we will discuss healthy signs of agape love in any relationship. You will understand that agape is not about mindless sacrifices, but the well-being of your loved ones. Such a love is hard to find but worth fighting for.

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1. You love them unconditionally 

There are no ifs and buts in true love and that’s what Agape is all about – loving unconditionally. No matter what the circumstances are or what rough patch you are going through, true love isn’t about giving up on the person you love. 

In the famous sitcom, FRIENDS, Ross had a major crush on Rachel way before they started dating. He always had feelings for her, no matter what the status of their relationship was and he never gave up on her. You know it’s Agape if you love them unconditionally without any expectations in return and love them through all the highs and lows. 

2. You put their needs before yours

Since we are talking about FRIENDS, do you remember the scene where Rachel broke her arm and Ross stayed to help her get ready and go to the hospital? Even when it was one of the most important days of his career. He didn’t even give it a second thought. Why? Well, you know the answer very well. We know that he always put her needs above his own. Not out of desperation but always out of the love he had for her. That’s the answer to how to truly love someone in a relationship.

3. You’re forbearant with them

You never give up! True love never gives up. You believe in them, you stick with them, and you’re always there with and for them. No matter what goes wrong, you stick around to fix it instead of walking away without hope. Because when you’re in love and when it’s true love, you don’t say, “I have done enough”, you’re always ready to fight as many demons that come in the way. 

People fight, and they have misunderstandings, and differences in opinions. But if you believe that you’re a person who is always there to fight beside your partner instead of fighting against them; if you believe you always stand up rather than walk away to be with your partner, then this my friend is one of the biggest signs of Agape love. 

Related Reading: How Important Are Common Interests In Relationships?

4. You don’t support them in their wrongdoings

This might sound contradictory to the very nature of agape but it’s important to understand that although Agape preaches to love unconditionally and to never give up, it never implies committing to sins or doing anything wrong, even if it is for the person you love more than anything. 

Agape is God’s love, and God never encourages us to participate or take pleasure in sins. He preaches to us to rejoice in the truth. To calm your dilemma, not supporting your partner in doing something wrong does not mean you’ve waged a war against them. A good relationship is all about supporting your partner and pushing them toward what’s right. 

5. You hold the power to forgive

Forgiveness is a human’s greatest power. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone deserves to be forgiven, especially when they realize and accept those mistakes. Forgiveness is the sign of Agape love, you forgive your partner’s wrongs or offenses against you. And you let go of the vendetta, without holding any grudges whatsoever. 

Is Agape Love Healthy?

We know quite a lot about Agape love (uh-gah-pay agape love) now and nothing about it says it’s not healthy. But when has love been a yes or no question? Daring to be bold, I’d say in the case of Agape, the answer is both yes and no. No matter how great something is, you always need to find the right balance. Agape love is about giving and sacrificing but that never means self-harm. People who harm themselves or do something reckless just to prove their love are not practicing unconditional love but perhaps some convoluted, toxic attachment. 

Also, when you keep giving, you empty your energy on that one person or maybe even a group of people. While you do so out of love, you need to remember that you only have a limited amount of energy and you cannot let your love for someone take a toll on you every day. That’s where it gets unhealthy. Love someone with all your heart. Give them your heart and soul if you deem, but don’t go blind and burn yourself for no good to them or thee. 

Dos In Agape LoveDon’ts In Agape Love
Love unconditionally, without expectationsExpect them to reciprocate your love
Put their needs above yoursLove them to fulfill your needs
Sacrifice Repeatedly remind them of your sacrifices or indulge in self-harm
Stand by their sideSupport them in their wrongs
Forgive Hold onto any grudge

Key Pointers

  • The Greek word, uh-gah-pay agape love, teaches us about selfless and sacrificial love. Unlike any other form of love, Agape is not self-seeking
  • We know Agape love from the Bible and is called God’s love, it teaches us about unconditional love and brotherhood for everyone around us
  • Agape love can play a major role in any relationship when balanced correctly with mindfulness and self-love
  • Agape is not about mindless sacrifices or self-harm but about doing right by the person you love, this is the only way to keep any relationship healthy

Agape is considered to be the highest form of love because it is not self-seeking and doesn’t entail personal gains and pleasure at its core. It has proven to be a necessary part of modern relationships as well. When you love someone unconditionally, you embrace the power of love and enhance your relationships. When you learn to balance communication, self-love, and agape love in a relationship, you pave the way for you and your partner to fulfill your own needs, care deeply for each other, and fortify your bond. All of it only leads you to a healthier relationship. 

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