Agape - Christian love:

Practicing Christianity 'in enemy-occupied territory,

where resentment is natural and provocation frequent'

Excerpts from Saint Luke, by G.B. Caird

(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963, pages 103-105)


The text of Luk 6:27-38
Text Jesus' teachings Early Christians' teachings Teachings change: 313 A.D. Other links



27 'But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. 31 And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.

32 'If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

37 'Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.'


G.B. Caird's Commentary on Jesus' teachings
Text Jesus' teachings Early Christians' teachings Teachings change: 313 A.D. Top of page




[Luke] 6:27-38 - THE LAW OF LOVE

...The Greek language has three words for love, which enable us to distinguish Christian love (agape) from passionate devotion (eros) and warm affection (philia). Jesus did not tell his disciples to fall in love with their enemies or to feel for them as they felt for their families and friends. Agape is a gracious, determined, and active interest in the true welfare of others, which is not deterred even by hatred, cursing, and abuse, not limited by calculation of deserts or results, based solely on the nature of God. Love does not retaliate (vv. 27-31), seeks no reward (vv. 32-36), is not censorious (vv. 37-38).

The men who were bidden to love their enemies were living in enemy-occupied territory, where resentment was natural and provocation frequent. They were not just to submit to aggression, but to rob it of its sting by voluntarily going beyond its demands. To those who believe in standing up for their individual or national rights this teaching has always seemed idealistic, if not actually immoral. But those who are concerned with the victory of the kingdom of God over the kingdom of Satan can see that it is the only realism. He who retaliates thinks that he is manfully resisting aggression; in fact, he is making an unconditional surrender to evil. Where before there was one under the control of evil, now there are two. Evil propagates by contagion. It can be contained and defeated only when hatred, insult, and injury are absorbed and neutralized by Love...

Most people - even sinners - have a rough-and-ready ethic based on common sense, enlightened self-interest, give-and-take; and they can claim to be as good as their neighbours. But the followers of Jesus must go further. The Christian ethic is Ethics Part II. Other systems distinguish what is right from what is wrong: Jesus distinguishes what is good from what is merely right, and urges his disciples not to be content with the lower standard. Duty is not enough. Duty obeys the rules, but love grasps opportunities. Duty acts under constraint, love is spontaneous and therefore gracious. Duty expects to be recompensed or at least recognized, love expects nothing in return. To love like that is to be sons of the Most High; for likeness is proof of parentage. 'Be merciful' might appear to be less exacting than Matthew's 'You, therefore, must be perfect' (Matt. 5:41). In the Old Testament, however, to be perfect means to be completely loyal and is a normal human virtue, but mercy is the very character of God. The son must inherit the attributes of his Father.

Generosity in giving must be matched by generosity of judgement. The rule of measure for measure does not mean that God deals with men on a basis of strict justice -- the rest of the sermon belies that -- but that intake is in proportion to output. He who gives and forgives sparingly receives sparingly. The gifts of God, including his mercy, come most freely to those who most freely pass them on to others.


Some other links
Text Jesus' teachings Early Christians' teachings Teachings change: 313 A.D. Top of page




Copyright 1996-2003 Robert Nguyen Cramer