Agape is a Greco-Christian term referring to love, "the highest form of love, charity" and "the love of God for man and of man for God". The word embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance. It goes beyond just the emotions to the extent of seeking the best for others. It includes affection, as in "greet with affection", in contrast to eros (an affection of a sexual nature).
Within Christianity, agape is considered to be the love originating from God or Christ for humankind. In the New Testament, it refers to the covenant love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; It can be also applied to non-religious contexts.
C. S. Lewis uses agape in The Four Loves to describe what he believes is the highest level of love known to humanity: a selfless love that is passionately committed to the well-being of others.
The Christian use of the term comes directly from the canonical Gospels' accounts of the teachings of Jesus. When asked what was the great commandment, "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like, unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40) In Judaism, the first "love the LORD thy God" is part of the Shema (Leviticus 19:18), while the second "love neighbor as thyself" is a commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5.3
Scripture clearly says that God is love. “The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 145:9). Christ even commands us to love our enemies, and the reason He gives is this: “In order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). The clear implication is that in some sense God loves His enemies. He loves both “the evil and the good,” both “the righteous and the unrighteous” in precisely the same sense we are commanded to love our enemies.
In fact, the second greatest commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:31; cf. Lev. 19:18), is a commandment for us to love everyone. We can be certain the scope of this commandment is universal, because Luke 10 records that a lawyer, “wishing to justify himself … said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Lk. 10:29)—and Jesus answered with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The point? Even Samaritans, a semi-pagan race who had utterly corrupted Jewish worship and whom the Jews generally detested as enemies of God, were neighbors whom they were commanded to love. In other words, the command to love one’s “neighbor” applies to everyone. This love commanded here is clearly a universal, indiscriminate love.
Consider this: Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law in every respect (Matt. 5:17–18), including this command for universal love. His love for others was surely as far-reaching as His own application of the commandment in Luke 10. Therefore, we can be certain that He loved everyone. He must have loved everyone in order to fulfill the Law. After all, the apostle Paul wrote, “The whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14). He reiterates this theme in Romans 13:8: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Therefore, Jesus must have loved His “neighbor.” And since He Himself defined “neighbor” in universal terms, we know that His love while on earth was universal. 1
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). God didn't just love the world (lost people everywhere); He SO LOVED the world! Do you sense the divine passion in that phrase? God is madly in love with everyone--saints or sinners. I believe the Bible illustrates that God loves people the same--regardless of their spiritual condition. Saved people, of course, delight His heart, but I don't think that the lost state of unbelievers lessens His love toward mankind. God's very nature is to love people. His passion is to see everyone (the world) come into a relationship of the saving kind with Him. His love is all-encompassing.
"But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 ). The Greek word for "commends" parallels our word, "directs." In other words, "For God so directed His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." 1 John 4:17 tells us that "God is love." The beloved disciple of Jesus makes no distinction between saints and sinners. God loves us--period!
A couple may have children who delight their hearts and who walk in total obedience to their parenting. That same couple may also have children who openly defy them and walk in harsh rebellion. That couple may grieve over their prodigal children, but their love for them remains intact and equal. Keep in mind that love is not an emotion; it's something we set our hearts to do. Those parents may experience anger, frustration and every emotion in between the two, but that does not mean they love their difficult children any less. God's love is not established on emotion, but on His character. He can't do anything BUT love. 2
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." —Romans 5:8