Genesis captures the depth of God’s love for humanity in two verses. His love is displayed in those same verses, however, through His deep grief.
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
I am saddened by my heavenly Father’s heartbreak for His wayward children. Most earthly parents, me included, have experienced that deep grief over a child’s choices. The paradox of grief is that it matches the depth of our love.
In the Old Testament, God’s love is revealed with one Hebrew word ahaba. Malachi spoke of it when he penned: I have ahaba you, saith the LORD (1:2, KJV). Zephaniah wrote, He will quiet you with His ahaba (3:17). It seems the Hebrew language is as limiting as the English language when it comes to capturing the depths and dimensions of a concept as pervasive as love.
I prefer to revel in the love of God portrayed within the pages of the New Testament Greek. Until recently I mostly thought of agape, the Greek word we think of most frequently for God’s love. The verb form of agape, agapao, reveals how agape is expressed through a particular-way-of-loving. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great agape with which He agapao us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Agapao describes the active love that moved God to send His own Son to rescue us from our sin, His solution for the sinful nature that continues to grieve and break His heart.
Unconditional love in action.
Love that is chosen.
Love acted out by the will.
Love that is benevolent.
Love not based upon the goodness of the beloved.
Love not based upon natural affinity.
Love not based upon emotion.
Love that is always seeking the good of the beloved.
John, the disciple Jesus loved, both witnessed and experienced agapao love. He wrote a brief expose on it in 1 John 4. John showed how God’s love for us not only flows to us and through us to others, but also allows us to love God back with the same love He has shown to us!
God’s love for us: Beloved, if God so agapao us (v.11).
God’s love displayed through us: He who agapao God must agapao his brother also (v.21).
Our love for God: We agapao Him because He first agapao us (v.19).
John also wrote of God’s dynamic love in one of the first verses children memorize: “For God so agapao the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Agapao, God’s love-in-action, is the essence of God!
This active quality of love continually envelopes our lives—whether we are conscious of it or not. Reminding myself of this draws me to acknowledge my waywardness, to seek to glorify Him with my life, and to worship with a humbled, undeserving heart. Would you join me?
*All verses are NKJV version, unless otherwise noted.