Characteristics of AGAPE

You know what an acrostic is: a form of “word play” in which the letters of one word form the first letters of a group of words. Perhaps the most famous acrostic in history was formed from the letters of the Greek word for “fish”: icthus.



God’s (“th” in Greek is formed with a single letter—theta: Θ)



It was because of this famous acrostic that the sign of the fish ( ) became a universal symbol of the Faith. Christians would etch this sign above the door of houses where the church met. They would trace this symbol in the dirt with their sandals to identify themselves as believers to others. This acrostic forms a very important part of the church’s history.

We hope another “word play” will become an important part of your personal history and of the history of the North Central Church. We’ve taken the word AGAPE (in red) and arranged it vertically. Then we’ve listed the essential characteristics that make up AGAPE love and “hung” them on the word AGAPE.[i] The important thing we mean to imply by using this “word play” is that the essential characteristics of transformed relationship hang from the single quality of AGAPE love.

Reconciled relationships (we are one)

Righteous relationships (we are holy)

Caring relationships (we are engaged)

Confident relationships (we are trusting)

Selfless relationships (we are humble)

We’ve also done this to help you get a better handle on what the word AGAPE means—what it looks like in practice—and to help us (as a church) think more clearly about how we encourage the development of this kind of love in ourselves and others. How can we get a handle on AGAPE love? What practical difference does AGAPE make to our relationships? And how can we foster this type of love?

We want to suggest that Christ-like AGAPE (and transformed relationships) take on five characteristics: commitments to peace, godliness, compassion, hope, and meekness. These attributes are found throughout Scripture and identified (in one form or another) in every list of the “fruit” of Christian living (e.g., the fruit of the Spirit—Gal 5:22-23; Paul’s instructions about what to “put on” as we are being “renewed in the image of the Creator”—Col 3:10; the Beatitudes—Mt 5:3-10; and Peter’s list of “everything we need for life and godliness”—1Pet 1:3-8).

As we’ll see, a full understanding (much less a full practice) of AGAPE can be overwhelming. But, like eating an elephant, this quality of God can become a quality of our own lives if we approach it one bite at a time. Understanding each of the five characteristics and partnering with God to plant them deep in our hearts will result, eventually, in a life founded on and based in AGAPE love.

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© 2012 by Tim Woodroof. Reproduction of this material requires permission from the author.