Yesterday, we talked about what it looks like when love is contaminated by desire or fear on the part of the one giving it and how that can be harmful to the person on the receiving end. The reality is that agape love is pure. In English, agape literally means with mouth wide open in wonder, so in our Christian tradition, agape love is the most wonderful, unconditional kind; the type that transcends circumstances and causes our hearts to rise to God in wonder and thanksgiving. This is the love that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13 — the stuff that makes our souls come alive!
To further enable you to understand agape love, I’m going to give you a visual image. Think of an open can of paint in your very favorite color. Once you picture that color, imagine what would happen if someone walked by it with an open can of black paint and accidentally spilled it into yours. My guess is that the perfect color you had in front of you would quickly become muddled and turn into something completely different; what was once vibrant would suddenly look dirtied and muted. This is exactly what happens when perfect love is contaminated by selfish desire.
Friend, agape love and self-serving wants cannot coexist! As soon as you put your own needs ahead of the one you are serving and do it in the name of love, the vibrancy of agape’s wonderful hue is dulled, and it becomes muddled and dirty. In order for love to exist in its highest form, it must put the needs, feelings, and well-being of the person receiving it ahead of its own gain, and the only way that happens is through death to self, which we will talk more in a few days.