Scott LaPierre Ministries

Scott LaPierre Ministries

What Are the Characteristics of Agape Love?

November 17, 2022

What are the characteristics of agape love? What kind of love is agape? Read or listen to this chapter from Your Marriage God’s Way to find out.


How does the world think about love? Cupid comes to mind. As popular culture states, he shoots people with his arrows and they fall in love. Society has also made it “normal” for people to fall out of love because supposedly love is an emotion over which we have no control. It’s as though people are walking along, they trip, and the next thing they know, they’ve developed feelings for someone.

According to this understanding of love, a man could tell his wife that he was at work and he didn’t mean to develop feelings for his coworker. They just kept running into each other in the hallway and the break room, and before he knew it, he “fell” in love with her. A man could also tell his wife, “I’m sorry, but I no longer love you. I don’t know how or when it happened, but I just fell out of love with you.” Feelings come and go, and because so many people today define love as a feeling, they assume that love comes and goes.

The biggest problem with this incorrect understanding is that it completely contradicts the way Scripture presents love (agape - for the Greek). It’s not a feeling or emotion. Agape is a choice, an act of the will. We choose whether we do or don’t love. God can command us to show this kind of love because we do, in fact, have control over it. Two of agape’s characteristics make this clear.


Phileo is conditional. Two friends might have phileo for each other because of qualities they share or circumstances that bring them together, but if those qualities or circumstances change, their phileo for each other might also change.

In contrast, agape is unconditional. It is not affected by a person’s actions, looks, or possessions. People might successfully create phileo for someone else by being a better friend, but agape cannot be earned or merited. Nothing can be done to increase or decrease agape. It can only be given. Agape does not demand reciprocation and it is independent of how it is treated in return. Agape loves even when rejected, mistreated, or scorned. That is what makes this form of love so unique and distinguishable.

Hosea Pursuing Gomer

The Old Testament provides a beautiful picture of agape’s unconditional nature. In fact, if a husband asked me, “Pastor, how far should I be willing to go in my love for my wife?,” I would tell him to read the book of Hosea (chapters 1 and 3 specifically). The prophet Hosea’s story began when God told him to marry a woman named Gomer as an object lesson about God’s relationship with Israel: “The Lord said to Hosea: ‘Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord’” (Hosea 1:2).

We don’t know whether Gomer was already a harlot when Hosea married her or she became one later, but at some point, Gomer left Hosea—either to resume her career as a harlot or to pursue adulterous relationships. Eventually she found herself destitute and she either sold herself or someone else sold her into slavery. We know this was a sexual slavery, akin to human trafficking today, because God commanded Hosea, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery” (Hosea 3:1). Notice the present—versus past— tense of the verse. Hosea was to love Gomer even while she was in an adulterous relationship.

In obedience to God, Hosea purchased Gomer back from slavery and restored her to her position as his wife. It is significant that God not only instructed Hosea to return to Gomer. He commanded him to love her: “Go again, love a woman.” Going back to Gomer after her unfaithfulness would have required an unimaginable amount of forgiv...