Agape (ah-gah-pay)

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January 7, 2013 by

While having brunch with friends the other day one told the group she had gotten a new tattoo, the word “agape” on her wrist. But, as she explained her Mom had no idea what agape (she pronounced a gape) was. In the book I have been reading for a class, Michael Himes’, Doing the Truth in Love, the first chapters focus on this word and I couldn’t help but feel this is something that we’ve fallen away from in recent years.

So what does it mean? Sure it has to do with love but a different kind of love rather than romantic love between a couple with cheesy pet names and so sickeningly sweet and adorable everyone else around wants to hurl. Agape, as Himes writes, “is a Greek word meaning love which is purely other-directed, love which seeks no return, love which does not want anything back…self gift.” In my own opinion it seems like today’s society is very individualistic and driven to self motivate and succeed on their own whereas before the motto seemed to be “be your neighbor’s keeper.” To me that means making sure you have others as well as yourself, being generous and doing kind things for those who may need help.

I absolutely love the meaning of agape and teachings on it but I can’t help being bothered by what I see around me. In the U.S. the mindset seems to mostly be to reach success no matter what and focus on yourself. Around the world countless countries are at war, rebel groups are taking over cities and even whole countries and it seems like this idea of agape is something severely lacking right now. What would happen if we changed our mindset? Get back to the old school way of helping your neighbor, helping those in need, thinking about others before yourself and committing to doing some sort of charitable work, even if it’s helping someone finish a task or paying for the person’s coffee behind you. If more were taught on this subject and if churches, schools and even the government put an emphasis on helping others and promoting this idea of “selfless love” rather than focus on controversial political issues and gripe about what’s wrong with the world then what a difference we might actually see!

I know part of my New Year’s resolution is to be more mindful of agape and the power behind it, whether that be to learn to love my enemies, help others and become more patient of situations I’d rather avoid. So we’ll see if any changes unfold while keeping the idea of “selfless love” in mind.


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