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  • Writer's pictureMandella Green


Agape, Greek in the New Testament, the fatherly love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God. In Scripture, the transcendent agape love is the highest form of love and is contrasted with eros, or erotic love, and philia, or brotherly love.

In John 3:16, a verse that is often described as a summary of the Gospel message, agape is the word used for the love that moved God to send his only son for the world’s redemption. The term necessarily extends to the love of one’s fellow humans, as the reciprocal love between God and humans is made manifest in one’s unselfish love of others.

agape adjective or adverb

Definition of agape (Entry 1 of 2)

1: wide open : GAPING with mouth agape

2: being in a state of wonder stood agape before the gothic cathedral

agape noun

Definition of agape (Entry 2 of 2)

: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: such as (1): the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2): brotherly concern for others b: a person's adoration of God


Based in a covenantal relationship, hesed is a steadfast, rock-solid faithfulness that endures to eternity:

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love (hesed) for you will not be shaken (Isaiah 54:10).

Hesed is a love that is so enduring that it persists beyond any sin or betrayal to mend brokenness and graciously extend forgiveness:

No one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love (hesed) (Lamentations 3:31-32).

Like other Hebrew verbs, hesed is not just a feeling but an action. It intervenes on behalf of loved ones and comes to their rescue.

The Bible Among the Myths, biblical scholar John Oswalt describes it this way:

The word hesed…[is] the descriptor par excellence of God in the Old Testament. The word speaks of a completely undeserved kindness and generosity done by a person who is in a position of power. This was the Israelites’ experience of God. He revealed himself to them when they were not looking for him, and he kept his covenant with them long after their persistent breaking of it had destroyed any reason for his continued keeping of it. …Unlike humans, this deity was not fickle, undependable, self-serving, and grasping. Instead he was faithful, true, upright, and generous—always.

Hesed is a bone-weary father who drives through the night to bail his drug-addict son out of jail. Hesed is a mom who spends day after thankless day spoon-feeding and wiping up after her disabled child. Hesed is an unsung pastor’s wife whose long-suffering, tearful prayers keep her exhausted husband from falling apart at the seams. Hesed is love that can be counted on, decade after decade. It’s not about the thrill of romance, but the security of faithfulness. Excerpt from Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverburg

“As divine hesed on the vertical plane intersects with the human horizontal plane, it transforms it.”

God’s Grace in the Old Testament: Considering the Hesed of the Lord by Will Kynes

Batter my heart, three-person'd God

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I, like an usurp'd town to another due,

Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,

But am betroth'd unto your enemy;

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


When the heart is hard and parched up,

come upon me with a shower of


When grace is lost from life, come

with a burst of song.

When tumultuous work raises its din

on all sides shutting me out from beyond,

come to me, my lord of silence, with

thy peace and rest.

When my beggarly heart sits crouched,

shut up in a corner, break open the door,

my king, and come with the ceremony

of a king.

When desire blinds the mind with

delusion and dust, O thou holy one,

thou wakeful, come with thy light and

thy thunder.

~Rabindranath Tagore~


You I want. Only you,

dearest, I desire.

Let me always say this from

the heart, no liar.

Other hopes of night and day

that lead me on, lead me astray;

for all fare false. Only you,

dearest, I desire.

As night’s prayer-word is unheard

that seeks sun’s fire —

so dream-deluded, it is you,

dearest, I desire.

As peace is shattered by storms’ riot

and yet at heart that storm seeks quiet —

so injuring you, yet only you,

dearest, I desire.

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