We use the word “love” so much today that it’s practically meaningless. I might say “I love you” to Karen one moment and then tell someone “I love the Dallas Cowboys.” Those are two very different relationships but I use the same word. Our culture has cheapened love.
But there’s one kind of love that is not cheap. It’s critical in your marriage and your family. When the Bible says God love us, it uses the word agape. This kind of love exclusively belongs to God and God’s people, because it isn’t based on a feeling. It’s love by choice. It’s love that endures through any circumstance or difficulty.
In other words, agape love is unconditional. As the theology books say, it will “never seek anything but the highest good for another person.” That’s the kind of love we should strive for and the kind of love our families need.
You can define agape love using the acrostic A-G-A-P-E.
A = Always gracious and faithful. Agape love is the most consistent love on earth. God is the most stable personality in the universe. He will never change His behavior toward me no matter how I’m acting. Thankfully, His love isn’t based on performance.
Agape love is not naïve, of course. God won’t help me self-destruct, but He won’t leave me in the bad times either. Agape love is faithful whether we deserve it or not.
G = Generous and sacrificial. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God gave to us, and He didn’t just sacrifice some random thing. He sacrificed Himself.
Many parents shelter or money to their families but never give themselves. Agape love means the most important thing you can give your family is you. Be generous with your time. Slow down, and make time for those you love.
A = About others first. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says love “does not seek its own.” That means it does what’s best for the other person. That passage also says love “doesn’t envy,” or become annoyed when someone has something they want. Agape love simply rejoices when others rejoice. It puts others ahead of itself.
P = Positive and faith-filled. In the same chapter, Paul writes that love “thinks no evil…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:5-7). Instead of letting a hard situation put you in a negative mindset, agape love remembers how great God is and what He can do in any situation.
Did you know the number-one potential warning sign of divorce is negativity? A relationship marked by a negative, sarcastic tone is headed for trouble. You can stay positive through prayer, praise and avoiding negative thoughts. Set those thoughts aside and remind yourself of the best things about your spouse and family members.
E = Expressed openly and often. I grew up in a very unaffectionate home. My dad never hugged me until I was an adult. He never said he loved me until the day he died. My parents didn’t know any better because they came from unaffectionate homes, but Karen and I were determined to change that in our family.
Of course, love means more than the words we use to convey it—undemonstrated love isn’t love—but it’s important to say “I love you.” Physical hugs are important, too, especially in the lives of your children. Agape love is expressed love. You tell your family you love them every day. You should show it, every day, as well.
The love within your family should mirror the agape love God has for us. Is your home a home filled with unconditional love?