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If I were to ever get a tattoo it would be a word or verse from scripture in its original language – ancient Greek or Hebrew. Afterall, I worked my tail off in seminary learning koine Greek and its consolation to know I could read and comprehend such a tattoo! (Side note: did you know there is a tattoo parlor in Jerusalem that has been tattooing Holy Land pilgrimage-goers continously for over 500 years? Anyway...). 

It’s been said that words create worlds. Words and their meaning(s) matter. Keeping this in mind proved useful this week at Holy Grounds as we discussed the previous Sunday’s Gospel passage, John 15:9-17 where Jesus commands his to “love one another as I have loved you”.

One of our students noted how Christians using the word “love” (as in love your neighbor), in their experience, confuses people because in our culture we have an exaggerated sense of romantic love and less clarity about the meaning of love.  This is a wise observation.

So…what does Jesus mean when he says “love one another?”

This is a great question! Ancient Greek offers some insight about different types of love:

  • Eros: Romantic, passionate love.
  • Philia: Deep friendship or sibling love.
  • Storge: Familial love, natural affection.

And then there is…agape (αγαπε) love. This is God-love. It’s unconditional, persevering, holy and wholly, stubborn love. It originates in God and is God (1st John).  

So, when Jesus says, over and over again, to love one another, can you guess what type to which he refers? You guessed it, agape.

I think this means we are to love other people as God loves them. This makes Jesus’ command even harder because this type of love is not based on whether we like someone but the belief that God loves them.

God loves them because – like you and I – they are created in the image of God (Genesis 1). Even though we’re imperfect reflections we still bear the fingerprints of our Creator who considers each of us “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139).

Agape love towards other people is a lifelong practice – just like a sport or hobby. It requires attention, tending, and adjusting. Loving others as God loves them is worth pursuing.

If Jesus were to get a tattoo, I wonder what it would be?