“Agape doesn't love somebody because they're worthy. Agape makes them worthy by the strength and power of love. Agape doesn't love somebody because they're beautiful. Agape loves somebody in such a way that it makes them beautiful.”
We English speakers don't have very many choices when it comes to expressing love—just one word that has to cover a lot of material: “I love you.” or “I love pizza.” or “I love Facebook.” Somehow, that one little word seems inadequate to cover what is a very broad subject. The ancient Greeks had four words for love; everything from eros (erotic love), philia (love among friends), storge (love between parents and children) to agape (transcendent, universal love). Agape is considered to be the highest form of love. We don't encounter it very often, because it is sacrificial in nature—the best representative of it in our lifetime was probably Mother Teresa.
When we do encounter agape, we're sometimes unaware. I think about my little sister, Missy, who had cerebral palsy. Missy couldn't do anything for herself, couldn't walk or talk, couldn't feed herself or dress herself. She was absolutely dependent on others for all her needs. She was misshapen, disfigured, not at all physically attractive. But somehow, she brought out the good in other people. She could light up a room with her laughter, and with all of her profound limitations, she was a joyful spirit. She garnered agape love from a wide range of people. Her presence in our family made us better people than we would otherwise have been.
It is not a mistake that agape (love) is spelled the same as agape, which means “wide open—especially with surprise or wonder.” Agape love is wide open—universal, unconditional. It reaches beyond ourselves and our desires, beyond our friends and family, our tribe, to embrace the world and its people. It emanates from a heart that is wide open. It transforms ugliness into beauty, makes what is unworthy by the world's standards, worthy. And best of all, it changes us. It transforms us into complete human beings, fully functioning and undefended. Being wide open makes us vulnerable, which is why we avoid it. Most of us, myself included, will never get to this highest form of love in one lifetime, but its still a worthy goal.
In the Spirit,