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What is Agape Love?

A Brief History of the Month of Love- It’s Not What You Think

This month, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, the holiday of love and romance.  Before it was a highly commercialized and somewhat high-pressure holiday to celebrate love with cards, candy, flowers, jewelry, dinners and date nights – what was it?  It turns out that there is not much “reliably known” about the life of the patron saint of love, Saint Valentine. He died in 269 AD and was martyred (died for his faith).  There are multiple saints by the same name and the truth of their stories is also widely debated – so much so, that in 1969 the Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar because “so little is known about him.”

As far as the timing of St. Valentine’s Day, as with many early Christian holidays, the timing has much less to do with anything related to St. Valentine and more about the pagan celebration of Lupercalia.  According to the History channel, this celebration occurred on February 15 and was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as Roman founders Romulus and Remus. This involved sacrificial animal offerings believed to bring fertility as well as match-making.  At the end of the 5th century, it was finally outlawed and Pope Gelasius declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day.

As for greeting cards and gifts – those traditions developed much later in the last several hundred years. As for cupid’s role in it all?  The Roman god, Cupid, actually takes his roots from Greek mythology – the Greek god of love, Eros – who’s own story has varied accounts.

Love and Romance

With such a muddled history, it is not hard to imagine why there are so many conflicting messages today about this holiday and the “love and romance” it is meant to represent.  There are plenty of memes and videos floating around social media – some as gentle (or not-so-gentle) reminders to spouses, some opposing the holiday all-together or others getting in their best jab at the frenzy it may cause.  Maybe you’ve even been thinking, “It would be nice if my husband, fiancée or boyfriend did ___________ for me.” 

Moms, that is where I would like to take a minute to pause and reflect.  Many of the things I’ve seen are all about what the men in our lives are going to do for us women in this season of love.  Have we stopped to ask ourselves what we are doing for our husbands on Valentine’s Day?  

You may be thinking, “Well I do things for my husband every day! I raise kids, clean house, cook, or work my own job!” It can be so overwhelming to think about our significant others when we feel overwhelmed and underappreciated. Unfortunately, this culture has caused us to misunderstand what LOVE actually is and why it’s misleading when we boil it down to being celebrated only on one day of the year. 


The New Testament was originally written in Greek before it was translated to Latin which was then translate to English. When we want to know the true meaning of a word, we want to go to the historical root of the word. In the New Testament alone there are 25 different Greek words for various types of love – from brotherly love, love between spouses, love for children, tenderly love, love of strangers to God’s preferred love on and on. 

agapé - affection, good-will, love, benevolence. Properly, to prefer, to love; for the believer, preferring to "live through Christ."Actively doing what the Lord prefers, with Him.  True agapáō ("loving") is always defined by God – a "discriminating affection which involves choice and selection.

This is the love word we see in the well-known verse, John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

Sometimes it is hard to wrap our heads around the magnitude of God’s love in this verse.  However, in his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul gives us this convenient list of what love is and what love is not – using the same Greek word for love as in John 3:16.

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in even but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).




KIND – gentle, full of service to others

ENVY – eager to possess, bubbling over with desire, jealous

PATIENT – slow to anger, “long-tempered”

BOASTFUL – showing off, needing attention, bragging

PROTECTS – cover, conceal, ward off, bear with, endure patiently

PROUD – arrogant, puffed up, to bear oneself loftily 

TRUSTS - to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, place confidence in

DISHONORING – act unseemly, unbecoming, indecent

HOPES - to wait for salvation with joy and full of confidence

SELF-SEEKING – seek, search for, desire, require or demand something for yourself

PERSEVERES – to endure, bear bravely and calmly, show endurance

EASILY ANGERED – emotionally provoked, irritated, roused to anger

REJOICES WITH THE TRUTH – rejoices with, takes part in another’s joy, what is true in any matter under consideration (even if it is something we don’t want to hear)

RECORD WRONGS – take into account a person’s wrong or evil thoughts, feelings or actions

NEVER FAILS – never falls down

DELIGHT IN EVIL – glad for an injustice, unrighteousness or hurt (“got what he deserved”

This love, true love, is putting others above ourselves. When I stop to think of love in these terms, it gives me pause. Instead of thinking about what I’d like my husband to do for me or get me this Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, Christmas, or the like, I can ask myself how I can serve and love him first. If we both move towards what love is outside of material things that focuses on ourselves, then every day, not just one day in February, will become full of romance. We can experience romance as we aim to protect each other from hardship, serve each other (by working, cleaning, making our homes peaceful without strings attached), meditating on the BEST parts of who each of you are, and being graceful with each other when you miss the mark. True agape love will never fail you or your marriage!

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