The word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 13 for love is “agape”. Agape means “unconditional love”; it describes the love God has for us and the love that we can have for Him and each other. Agape love gives value by the very act of loving; it’s not a reward for the value of something but creates value by the act of love.
Society’s logic will often tell us that we should love those that are deserving of our love, that are appealing to us, kind to us, that behave well. But God’s love is radical – it doesn’t have those conditions. To God there’s no-one who is unlovable. That’s the radical love we are called to – a love that is made possible by the love that God shows us. We’re called to love our fellow believers, love the lost, the last and the least and even love our enemies.
We can use the word “love” so flippantly: “I love that film” or “I love that flavour of ice cream”. This is so much less than God’s love. God’s love – the love He enables us to receive and to give – is so much greater, so much deeper, so much stronger, so much more powerful and so much more radical!
This kind of love is a verb – it acts. That’s what we are called to do; we are called to actively love others, to be so on fire with love for those that don’t know Jesus, to be so consumed with love for those that experience the injustice of homelessness, of hunger, of addiction, of hopelessness. Radical love is sacrificial and generous: it says, “My comfort, my needs, my wants are not the most important”; it says, “I’m going to put others’ needs first”. Radical love says, “I see you with God’s eyes”; it says, “The creator of the universe, the almighty, the King of Kings came and died for you, so my actions towards you are going to reflect that”.
Faith, hope and love; the greatest of these is love – we are so radically loved and can be a people known for loving others radically, demonstrating God’s transformational, life-giving love.
By Catherine De Souza