The Greek language has three words for love: Eros, Philia, and Agape. Eros is a type of esthetic love. Philia is an intimate affection between personal friends (a kind of reciprocal love—a person loves because s/he is loved). The third word, Agape, means nothing sentimental or affectionate. It is the love of God—the love of God working in the lives of men and women.
Since we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., today, I want to honor his life and work by quoting his definition of this agape love and his understanding of the new age that is dawning.
Agape “means understanding, redeeming good will for all men. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. It is the love of God working in the lives of men. When we rise to love on the agape level we love men not because we like them, not because their attitudes and ways appeal to us, but because God loves us. Here we rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. With this type of love and understanding good will we will be able to stand amid the radiant glow of the new age with dignity and discipline. Yes, the new age is coming. It is coming mighty fast.
Now the fact that this new age is emerging reveals something very basic about the universe. It tells us something about the core and heartbeat of the cosmos. It reminds us that the universe is on the side of justice. It says to those who struggle for justice, ‘You do not struggle alone, but God struggles with you.’ This belief that God is on the side of truth and justice comes down to us from the long tradition of our Christian faith. There is something at the very center of our faith that reminds us that Good Friday may occupy the throne for a day, but ultimately it must give way to the triumphant beat of the drums of Easter. Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but one day that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by His name. There is something in this universe that justifies Carlyle in saying, ‘No lie can live forever.’ There is something in this universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, ‘Truth crushed to earth shall rise again.’ …..
There is a danger…that after hearing all of this you will go away with the impression that we can go home, sit down, and do nothing, waiting for the coming of the inevitable. You will somehow feel that this new age will roll in on the wheels of inevitability, so there is nothing to do but wait for it. If you get that impression you are the victims of an illusion wrapped in superficiality. We must speed up the coming of the inevitable.”