Real Agape Love

By Dan Vis
March 02, 2020
Comments: 42

Note: This week's memo was originally published in The Moral Machinery. There I identify agape love as one of four spiritual faculties highlighted in the Bible. Given that this month's featured class is Made in Heaven, it seemed a good idea to repost this article, and shine a bit of a spotlight on true love. Enjoy!

While the world today, generally focuses on love as an emotion, the Bible describes love as a spiritual principle that guides and directs the life. Note first, that it is clearly connected with the heart of man: "Now the end [goal] of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart" (I Timothy 1:5Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:). This makes sense, when we remember that the Law of God is in essence a set of moral principles defining true love. All the commandments are "briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Romans 13:9For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.).

Knowing that biblical love (Agape) is not so much a feeling, as a principle, helps us to understand its function. Like conscience and memory, love prompts the mind to do things that are loving and kind to others around us. It inspires us to manifest genuine interest, compassion, and concern. Paul described it this way:

I Thessalonians 4:9-10
9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. 10 And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;

In other words, God is constantly sending impulses to do the loving or caring thing in specific situations. This is no doubt what Paul meant when he said "the love of Christ constraineth us" (II Corinthians 5:14For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:). When the Spirit comes into our life, it awakens within us impressions to act with genuine Agape love. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.). Our part is to yield to those impressions, and to "increase more and more."

With every prompting, however, comes a choice. We can honor the impression, and do what is best for the other person. Or we can put self first, and pursue our own interests and needs. These subtle decisions are made hundreds of times a day, and the choices we make reveal something about the condition of our character. It also influences how we view people.

Suppose for example, you are a young man, and your wife has just had her first baby. It is 3:00 in the morning, and the baby begins to cry. You glance over at your wife, who is sleeping angelically. The thought comes to your mind: "She must be exhausted from taking care of the baby. I should let her get some rest. Maybe I should go check the baby, and try and put it back to sleep."

But then quick on its heels comes another thought: "This bed is so warm and comfortable. I need my rest. I have to go out and work all day. My wife stays home--she should take care of the baby. What does she do at home all day, anyway?" In a matter of seconds your wife has been transformed from sweet and angelic to lazy and probably dishonest--laying there just pretending to be asleep! And that entire change took place without her even blinking an eye.

Of course, the real change took place in you. Your perception of your wife changed dramatically the moment you decided to reject the impression to do what was loving. This is not to say, we should always help every person in every situation. Judgment has to evaluate each impression. There are biblical guidelines that govern when and how we are to help people. But the point is, any time we betray some heaven sent prompting to care for another person, our perception of that person becomes distorted just that little bit. It has to do with the problem of rationalization we have talked about before. We justify and excuse our selfish behavior, thereby blinding ourselves to the reality of the situation. "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves" (James 1:22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.). Sin causes us to lose our ability to see people clearly.

This is the source of most interpersonal conflict. Each person magnifies the faults of the other, and minimizes their own. Both might admit they didn’t handle every thing exactly right, but the bulk of the responsibility lies with the other person. Jesus described this situation in the Sermon on the Mount: "why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? . . . Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye" (Matthew 7:3,5And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? . . . Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.). In most cases, if either one would simply humble themselves, and sincerely confess their wrongs, the other would respond in kind. Most problems could be resolved in five minutes if we just refused to let pride get in the way!

But pride is a deadly sin, and all too common. It can creep into any relationship: husband, wife, brother, sister, parent, child, co-worker, church member, acquaintance or friend. Even total strangers. Reject the moving of the Holy Spirit to show genuine love to a person, and the mind gets busy transforming them into something unworthy of love. They are morphed from a living, breathing person, to an obstacle, or a means to an end. They become little more than objects. Over time, our inclination to show love to anyone diminishes.

True love, in contrast, sees others through the eyes of Christ. As precious, and valuable. As having tremendous potential. Tremendous worth. It inspires us to take an interest in people, to take note of what is important to them, and to search for ways to be a blessing to them. Every act of service, is an investment of treasure in that person. Which only deepens our love for them, for "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.). By responding to the impressions of the Holy Spirit, we remain free to see people as they truly are: a valuable son or daughter of God. I suspect this is why Jesus said:

Matthew 5:39,44But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. . . . But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Resist not evil . . . Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.

To respond angrily, is to lose our ability to see them through eyes of Christ. Blindness settles over us. Love becomes crippled.

The goal is to respond to the constraining power of love consistently. To resist love of self. No matter how fierce the battle, to immerse every choice in the power of the Gospel. Paul describes what this life looks like, and concludes that it is the essence of being like Christ:

Philippians 2:3-5
3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Like our physical eyes and ears, love is a sense organ that enables us to look at people, and listen to them, in new ways. It teaches us how to care for them, as Christ would. It is the secret to filling our lives with loving relationships.

An entire book could be written on the topic of Agape love. But it really does boil down to relationships. If you want to experience a more Spirit-filled life, examine your relationships. Is there conflict? Frustration? Resentment? Distance? Apathy? Begin reconnecting with people. Reconcile damaged relationships, and pick up neglected ones. Meet new people. And in all your interpersonal interactions, learn to listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, prompting you how to love. It is another vital spiritual faculty. It is how Christ lived His life among men.


Did the information in this article resonate with you? Did you glean new insights into what it means to have a character of love? What stood out most? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Posted by Zee on 03/21/20  
Thanks Nena. God bless you
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/20/20  
You are very welcome Nena! It is amazing how much God values people, and that does drive His interactions with man. The more we can discern the value in others, the more our actions will become similar. Good post!
Posted by Nena on 03/19/20  
Thanks Dan and all sisters and brothers-sharing.
Value people and a humble heart.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”
I love this verse. God values people so much, and all his purpose is for the happiness of mankind. How you look at the people determines how they are treated. Good relationships will promote happiness and brings unexpected gains. Zee I like your prayers. These are my prayers,too
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/06/20  
I can't wait for heaven either Zee! And glad you are finding our community to be a family. That's what we're after!

PS. If you want to tag someone, just tap their picture and it will insert the code into the comment box you can use for wherever you want to put their name.
Posted by Zee on 03/06/20  
Thank you Dan and God bless you mightily for this amazing tool. I am slowly finding my way around this vast tool but I find so many aspects of it simply amazing. And I love my new found family, that I look forward to meeting on the gold paved streets of heaven.

Blessed day
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/05/20  
So glad to hear this was both helpful and timely. And I like your prayer. It's one thing glean an insight, another to cultivate it to the point it bears fruit. All the best Zee!
Posted by Zee on 03/05/20  
This message spoke straight to my situation. Thanks Dan. Like many have said, so timely! To God be the glory. I pray that the good seed that has been sown in my heart, may the Lord ensure it's growth until it bears fruit.
Posted by Sharon Hamilton on 02/15/19  
Precisely Dan, if we could get rid of the pride that so easily beset us our true demos of true Love would enhance better relationships amongst us .
Life would become more managable,and our living will not be in vain.

Thanks also for Reminding us that it is impossible to build Relationships by ourselves,it takes great Strenght to Allow the Holy Spirit to Lead us Daily Via Prayer and Keen Ears to Carry out what True Love means.
Amen, Praise the Wonderful name of Jesus.
Posted by Dan Vis on 02/12/19  
It is a different way of looking at love Valerie (that it is sensory) and I like the conclusion you drew (that it is strengthened through obedience). That is exactly how the other 3 spiritual faculties work as well. Good observation! And thanks for your testimony about how God works in our heart. Reminds me of Romans 5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.. :)
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 02/11/19  
I need to add something to the post: I said that loving others who were kind to me was "natural". What I meant to say is that it was/is the truth for me. I have people in my life who have not been kind but I have loved them just the same so rather than withdraw from them I made a decision through the Holy Spirit to love them because that is what I truly wanted to do. I didn't want their behavior to change what God put in my heart for them.
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 02/11/19  
" is a sense organ..." I never thought of love in that way. It means that love is a part of my being that has to be supported through obedience to the Holy Spirit. That really makes me think differently. However, I have had instances of responding to people who had been unkind to me from that place of love which is for me, more natural. When I have done that, I acted from genuine love without being driven by self-interest. I know that only comes from God. II Corinthians 5:14For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:.
Posted by Dan Vis on 02/11/19  
Thanks for sharing Patricia!

I love what you said Emma: "This really goes beyond flowers and chocolate." You are so right about the need for the Holy Spirit to understand true love.

Amen Carole! I like how you emphasized true love leads to peace, joy, and true freedom. Self-deception is never freedom.

Thanks for highlighting that Marion! If you use twitter be sure to retweet it! :)
Posted by Marion Coppock on 02/11/19  
I like the tweet that you inserted,

“Any time we betray some heaven sent prompting to care for another person, our perception of that person becomes distorted just that little bit. We justify and excuse our selfish behavior, thereby blinding ourselves.”

So I need to listen more closely to God "Holy Spirit" nudging me.
Posted by Carole Bliss on 02/11/19  
This message came at the right time. I know I needed to read this. Seeing people through the eyes of God is so important.Letting go of our conflicts, and sseking to see others,the way Jesus does, brings such peace and joy. Also true freedom. Thank you. Carole
Posted by Emma Assogoma Gbenedio on 02/11/19  
This really goes beyond flowers and chocolate. It takes a connection with the Holy Spirit to listen to His promptings...
Posted by Patricia Jones on 02/11/19  
A powerful article, Dan, which I'll share with others. I'd never thought before about the connection between how we respond to impressions to help others and our views of them and ourselves. I've read the quote that most problems could be resolved in 5 minutes several times before and you tied it in beautifully. May God help us see ourselves and others as He sees them.
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/03/18  
So true Lesley. Of course the problem is not just our unwillingness to accept the value Jesus assigns people, it's our inability to see it for our self! The value is already there--Jesus just sees things more clearly than we do. If our eyes were open to the real potential in people, we would naturally put a huge priority on their salvation. Great post!
Posted by Lesley Noakes on 04/03/18  
Thanks for reminding me that every person is valuable to Christ. If I truly love Jesus then I must accept the value Jesus places on someone and learn to love and treat with care and respect everyone I meet. It also means I must put their salvation as a high priority as Jesus will miss them in his kingdom.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/28/18  
You are very welcome Floride. Such a beautiful prayer...
Posted by Floride Leonce on 03/28/18  
Thank you for another great and vital lesson, Dan! May the Holy Spirit help us to really see others through God's eyes and love them the way we ought to.

Posted by Dan Vis on 03/26/18  
Thanks Carole! So true--we definitely need the Spirit's guidance and strength. :)
Posted by Carole Bliss on 03/26/18  
Wonderful message! Thank-you. How we need to be reminded. Pray to have the Holy Spirit guide us as we make choices throughout each day. Such a practical, and vital message.
Only in His strength, with His Spirit can we live as HE lived.
We need to die daily. Its an ongoing struggle. We need to feed on His Word, and pray much.

God bless all,
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/26/18  
Great comments everyone! Yes Dan, one way to betray the impression is to procrastinate, and yes Darci, sometimes the self-deception takes place in how we view ourselves. John, I like how you link this to the difference between knowing and doing truth. Good parallel!

Meshell, so good to hear from you! Thanks for sharing your testimony. And please do call your friend! :)

Leslie, that's a powerful prayer! Help us all to pray it more consistently.

I like how you linked Romans 5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. to your story Joyce. You definitely shine new light on the verse!
Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 03/26/18  
Romans 5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. really made me think today because I forgot to do 2 things this morning that my husband had asked me to do. So when I remembered and it was too late, then I was ashamed that I had forgotten to think of him. You can probably apply that verse in other ways, but that was the way I saw it just now.
Posted by Leslie Caza on 03/26/18  
CONVICTED. His grace is sufficient. Am I willing? Lord, make me willing to be willing.
Posted by Meshell on 03/26/18  
Thank you for the article. God has such a way of speaking to me! I felt a prompting earlier this morning to reach out to a sister, but reasoned that they weren't thinking of me and would not want to hear from me. This article is God's tender reminder that it's not about me, but what God has asked me to do. I have humbly submitted to God's will and have reached out with love to my sister.
Posted by Darci Ziegler on 03/26/18  
I like what Dan Pratt had to say there. I often think of things I should do for someone and then, thinking I will do it sometime, soon I forget about it. Good intentions that get forgotten in business or else maybe it's really just laziness. But I wonder - in the article it talked about how our perception of people will become distorted because in order to justify ourselves we think less of that person. In the case of thinking they are worthy of our loving deeds but we just never get around to doing them- maybe our perceptions of ourselves are distorted because we think we are much better than we are. We know we have these loving and kind ideas and somehow think we actually are loving and kind but in reality we are lazy procrastinators. I am going to try to make an effort to think about and actually follow through on loving deeds and words to those around me today.
Posted by Dan Pratt on 03/26/18  
Great article and reminder! A thought hit me, though, when you talked about choice ("With every prompting however, comes a choice. We can honor the impression, and do what is best for the other person. ") that there is also another, even more insidious, possibility--that of delay, or procrastination. Merely by agreeing with the impulse, but by putting off the decision to act on it, we, at least I, often decide against it, while still thinking that I am making a good decision because I actually agree with the impulse.
Posted by Dan Vis on 12/09/16  
Hi Danetta! Thanks for asking. You can get print copies of the lessons in our Online Store, or you can become a partner at just $10/month and get digital access to all our lessons for personal study. It's the best way to do it actually.

As a partner you also get access to all our intensives and can sign up for the Journey.

If you want to use the lessons in a group in your church for example, you can have your church register and every member gets access to our lessons.

Let me know if you have questions. Thanks Berith!
Posted by Berith Bermejo on 12/09/16  
Hi, Dan, Danetta has a comment for you above.
Posted by Danetta on 12/07/16  
Hi Dan, is it possible to purchase the laws of life study guides in e-copies?
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/28/16  
Praise God Shirley! Certainly learning to have a heart more like Christ is relevant to all of us, isn't it? It's our greatest need and constant challenge...
Posted by Shirley Alsop on 11/28/16  
Thanks for the post today, Dan Vis, just last night in our home Bible study group one of our participants who is a new Christian was asking about this very thing... how to handle a husband who gets angry and speaks unkindly to her! I know she will be blessed by what you have presented... and so will I.
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/28/16  
Delene, it is at I've done several series there. You'll have to search for it though. We do have links to the videos in our Laws of Life class, but it's not up at the moment. And if you are a partner, you can access those study guides as well. I personally like the study guides...
Posted by Delene Drescher on 11/28/16  
@Alwaysgrowing and Dan,

Where have you been watching thT series?

ThNk you for sharing that quote.
Posted by Danetta on 11/28/16  
Thank you for this article! I have been watching your law of God series on rightly trained, and it's really been impacting my perspective of every small action in life

While reading, this quote came to mind.

The truth is not merely to be spoken by those who work for Christ; it is to be lived. People are watching and weighing those who claim to believe the special truths for this time. They are watching to see wherein their life represents Christ.By humbly and earnestly engaging in the work of doing good to all, God’s people will exert an influence that will tell on all with whom they are brought in contact. If those who know the truth will take hold of this work as opportunities are presented, day by day doing deeds of love and kindness in the neighborhood where they live, Christ will be revealed in their lives.—The Review and Herald, June 2, 1903. BLJ 276.5i
Posted by Diane Castanon on 11/28/16  
I have your book, Moral Machinery, and started reading it. It is beautiful! Thank you for including this chapter as today's reading.
God bless you! :)
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/28/16  
Praise God Delene, Marsha. I usually post our "Memo" articles a few days early, and then announce them Monday morning. I'm really enjoying putting these articles together. Glad you are enjoying them...
Posted by Marsha on 11/28/16  
The Lord leads in your choice of articles to share.....this is so spot on Dan. I'm walking the relationship path even now, this message is sooooo timly!
Posted by Delene Drescher on 11/27/16  
I was having a struggle just a couple of hours ago and the Lord just made things so clear to me. Amazing love of His.
Posted by Delene Drescher on 11/27/16  

AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! God sends His rebuke and encouragement at JUST THE RIGHT TIME!!!!! He is faithful!!!!

This is the first time I have seen this article. There are some more Scriptures I must memorize!!!!!

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