Agape – Sacrificial Love
Agape is the first Greek word of love I want to explore with you.
When we say, “God is love,” we mean this word, agape. Agape (\ ä-ˈgä-(ˌ)pā [this pronunciation will open in a new window]) means a sacrificial love, and by saying God is Love we mean that God is a sacrificial being. God is Agape.
The nature of the Trinity is the giving of selves to each other. The Trinity made us out of love, and continues to give this love to us. This means that we are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). We are made to be Agape. Since Agape is the greatest of all the loves, some could say that it’s the foundation of where all the loves stem from. ManHusbandDads need to be sacrificial to their families and friends, giving themselves to help each other. In a way, one could say that Agape is the fuel that keeps the other three loves pure, and not selfish. Agape love enables ManHusbandDads to live out the Twelve Righteous Virtues.
Jesus Christ tells us in the Gospel of John, 15:13, that “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The perfect image of sacrificial love is the crucifixion, and we as ManHusbandDads need to always keep our eyes focused on the crucified Christ. It is the power of the crucifixion that allows us to be sacrificial for others, just like Jesus.
The concept of the sacrificial love which Jesus demonstrated for us on Good Friday, was such a powerful image of love, that throughout the past 2000 years of Christian history, we have tried to imitate Christ in His sacrificial gift of self, through different acts of service. For example, policemen, firemen, and soldiers, are brave men who are willing to shed their blood, so that we may be safe and secure. We must always be grateful for the sacrifices of these amazing heroes, who out of love for justice, freedom, and their fellow man, are willing to die for us. Those men who fight crime, fires, terrorism and dictators, are truly living out John 15:13.
It is also interesting to note, that the concept of sacrificial love can be seen in great works of fiction as well. Superheroes are a great example of fictional characters who are willing to shed their blood for the love of their fellow man. Superman for example, who is my favorite comic book hero, was willing to put himself in harm’s way, in order to protect humanity from the evil Lex Luther; and in a special way, Superman was willing to die from Kryptonite, in order to protect Lois Lane, his one true love. For me personally, the greatest act of sacrificial love demonstrated in fiction, was when the character Spock in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”, sacrifices his life in order to save the Enterprise, and his shipmates. In this action-packed movie, Spock paraphrases the heart of John 15:13, when he says: “…the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Although Spock is a fictional character, his actions beautifully demonstrate Agape, and is a great model to help us understand how to live out Christ’s teachings.*
It is important to note that the radical Islamic terrorist acts which we witnessed on September 11, 2001, were not sacrificial love. Purposefully killing yourself, in order to kill others out of hatred, is not sacrificial love. Jihad is a distortion of Agape, and must be condemned. Sacrificial love is true, when a person offers his or her life for the benefit of another. In other words, Agape is not self-centered like in Jihad, but is self-giving like Jesus and the Christian martyrs throughout the centuries.
The only way love can be kind and not arrogant as St. Paul references, is for love to be Agape (sacrificial). So, let us Men reclaim the true understanding of what love is, by embracing Agape, and not listen to the pressures of our secular world. The more we embrace and practice Agape, the more human we will become. Love truly is patient, and not arrogant, and let us look to the most perfect man, Jesus Christ, as our model to what true masculinity and true love is.
*Editor’s Note: Nick and I both know that Spock’s Machiavellian “The ends justifies the means” idea that “the needs of the many outweigh those of the few” does not conform to the Church’s teaching on agape. The Church teaches that situations that arise like this cannot be categorized but must be dealt with from a moral perspective based on each situation. For istance, saying that “the world does not need another mouth to feed” is not justification for abortion.
Agape can be scary. What does sacrifice mean to you?
Nicholas Kovacs, OFS
HOO™ Writer | Catechist | Independent Author
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