Heart Lessons: What is Agape? (In light of MLK day!)

Ahmedabad, India

There’s this word, agape, that I’ve been hearing a lot. It’s been coming up in books and articles, especially in an excerpt I recently re-read from Martin Luther King Jr.’s book My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence. In this book he speaks about the different characteristics of nonviolence, and within these characteristics, he speaks of love.

Rather than write a whole post about it, I thought I would simply share some excerpts from the reading. Agape is a term that has been coming up for me a lot in the past couple of months as I detach from past projects and experiences, but continue to learn from the lessons they have to offer. As I immerse myself into spaces I’ve always been a part of, but dive even deeper, I’ve continued to question what my definition of love in action is. It has also made me think about how this concept of restoring community can intermingle with my day to day life.

Agape to me inhibits a certain level of strength and beauty. After reading these excerpts, I’ve urged myself to question a step further to What is agape in action? 


Agape means understanding, redeeming good will for all men. It is an overflowing love in which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Agape springs from the need of the other person- his need for belonging to the best in the human family.

Agape is not weak, passive love. It is love in action. Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community. It is instance on community even when one seeks to break it.

Agape is a willingness to sacrifice in the interest of mutuality. Agape is a willingness to go to any length to restore community. It doesn’t stop at the first mile, but it goes the second mile to restore community. It is a willingness to forgive, not seven times, but severe times seven to restore community.

If I meet hate with hate, I become personalized…Booker T Washington was right: “Let no man pull you so low to make you hate him.” When he pulls you that low he brings you to the point of working against community; he drags you to the point of defying creation, and therefore becoming depersonalized”.

Agape means a recognition of the fact that all life is interrelated…if you harm me, you harm yourself

Love, agape, is the only cement that can hold this community together. When I am commanded to love, I am commanded to restore community, to resist injustice, and to meet the needs of the brothers.


Whatever we decide to call it, says MLK, agape plays a role in the creative process of the universe which brings “the disconnected aspects of reality into a harmonious whole”. So, my question now would be What is agape in action for you?


You can read the first part of this passage here and the second part here. Excerpts are from Chapter 6 of My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence.

Rina PatelComment