The word ‘love’ has a number of different meanings. Christians believe that God has unconditional and enduring love for all human beings, known as agape. They believe that he showed this love by sacrificing his son, Jesus, to atone for human sin. In this sense, agape is also a self-sacrificing kind of love.
Jesus’ mission was based on agape. The gospels tell how Jesus encouraged people to love others unconditionally, even when it was difficult to do so.
When one of Jesus’ followers asked which of the Ten Commandments Jesus believed was the most important, Jesus replied:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’Matthew 22:37–9
In the Gospel of Luke, after Jesus tells his followers to love their neighbour, one of them asks who exactly they should think of as their neighbour. In reply, Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
In this story, a Samaritan man helps a Jewish man who has been beaten and robbed, although many people have walked by and ignored him. The Samaritan not only pays for the Jewish man’s care but also says he will return to pay more if needed. This teaches that people should not only show agape to people within their own community but also to anyone in need of help.
Leprosy is an infectious disease that causes very serious symptoms. At the time of Jesus, it had no cure. Sufferers were known as ‘lepers’ and many people refused to go near them. The Gospel of Matthew describes how Jesus reached out to touch a man with leprosy, who was then cured of the disease.
Jairus was a religious leader who did not like Jesus. Even so, when his daughter was dying, he pleaded with Jesus to heal her. When Jesus reached Jairus’ house, his daughter had already died, but Jesus managed to bring her back from the dead.
When he was walking to the house of Jairus, a sick woman touched Jesus’ clothes in the hope that it would heal her. Jesus realised what she had done and told her that she had been healed because of her faith.
What is the name given to the type of love that God has for humanity and that Jesus taught people to show towards one another?
Agape, which is unconditional and enduring love.