The Bible presents four types of love based on ancient Greek definitions; eros, phileo, storge, and agape. However, those are not the only Greek definitions. There are four others, but they are not biblically acceptable; pragma, philautia, ludus, and mania. The secular view of eros may also be included. Pragma or practical love is about how one can benefit from a relationship. Philautia or self-love looks only at one’s pleasure and pride. Ludus or playful love is very flirtatious and has no commitment to any relationship. Mania or obsessive love is a jealous and very possessive kind of love. These four are very much focused on shallow and very self-centered ideals. They are conditional; even eros, phileo, and storge are tied to reasons to love. However, there is a kind of love that goes beyond reason and is unlimited. It is the kind of love that, if viewed from the biblical perspective, no human is even capable of. It is what the Greeks call agape or unconditional love. It is not based on feelings, benefits, or circumstances. Due to man’s fallen nature, we do not have the capacity to love beyond our own reason. Agape is the highest kind of love, which only God has the ability to perfectly consummate.
In 1 John 4:16, it says that “God is agape.” God is not merely an epitome of love, nor is it simply one of His characteristics. He is essentially love. God’s unconditional love for us is not based on our good deeds or our reciprocation of that love. He loves us generously, mercifully, compassionately, and sacrificially. What is amazing is that His love does not even have a time limit, as He said in Jeremiah 31:3 that He loves us with an “everlasting love.” Basically, by biblical standards, agape is the unconditional love of God, which is what this discussion will revolve around. God loves us no matter who we are or what we’ve done.
The love of God goes beyond reason. If God loves us based on reason, then we would have been totally annihilated at the beginning, when man first sinned. The whole book of Hosea in the Old Testament shows that kind of love. God used the life and marriage of the prophet Hosea to illustrate His love, which goes beyond reason. Hosea had a very promiscuous wife who repeatedly prostituted herself with other men. But God told Hosea to still love her, just as God loved Israel, despite her adultery (Hosea 3:1). In the Mosaic law, the most reasonable thing to do to such an adulterous woman is to stone her to death (Leviticus 20:10), but God chose to show mercy and grace, to demonstrate His love for His people.
We used to be enemies of God because of our constant rebellion, but because God loves us unconditionally, He reconciled us through Christ (Colossians 1:21-22). His love allows us to be forgiven, regardless of the severity and frequency of our sin, as the scripture would say, “as far as the east is from the west so has God forgiven our sins” (Psalm 103:12). Even while we were still sinners, that never stopped God from demonstrating His love for us (Romans 5:8). God’s greatest demonstration of agape love is best expressed in John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
God does not just love us reactively but also proactively. He doesn’t wait for us to love Him back before He responds in love. He relentlessly pursues us because of His agape love.
Though agape is the kind of love that man is incapable of, God’s people are called to show agape love towards God (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27), towards fellow believers (John 13:34), and even towards enemies (Matthew 5:44). The whole of 1 Corinthians 3 describes the kind of unconditional love we should follow. It also shows us how difficult it is for us to love unfailingly. That is why we need the Holy Spirit to enable us to practice agape love. Ultimately, we are only able to love unconditionally because God Himself initiated it (1 John 4:19), while we are merely walking by His example of selfless and sacrificial love (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Whatever we do or fail to do for God does not enhance or enrich Him in any way. It’s amazing how our God keeps on loving us, even at His expense. We have always been the beneficiaries of His generosity, despite how we treat Him. People may say that it was the Pharisees, the Jews, Pilate, the Romans, or Judas, but our sins put Jesus on that cross. If you think more deeply, His unconditional love for us made Him endure the scorn and shame of the cross. One can only imagine that while God (who sees the past, present, and future) was creating us, He could see our future rebellion and what it would cost Him. Probably, while He was molding our hands, He knew that someday they would be used to hurt others. Those eyes would be used to look at the world instead of Him. That mind would question Him and even His existence. That mouth would utter curses toward people and toward Him. That body would submit to the pleasures of the world instead of worshipping Him alone. Those feet would someday walk away from Him. And someday, it would cost Him His only begotten Son. Yet, He still made us, and even when we first sinned, He immediately declared His plan for our future salvation through Christ’s sacrifice (Genesis 3:14-15). Because of God’s boundless agape love for us, He will never allow His people to be separated from Him.
(Romans 8:35,37-39 KJV)