Building With Agape

Written by Matthew Macaulay ChattHOP Staff

On the 28th of February this year I had the most wonderful welcome to a new country you could wish for: an extravagant party to mark my birth and arrival at a wonderful location, with scrumptious food and elaborate decoration, and a whole community that braved the snowy conditions of mountainous East Tennessee to show up to celebrate me. Quite ridiculous, extravagant, lavish, and rather overwhelming.

The time came where the lights were dimmed, the candles lit, and the inevitable dubious rendition of “Happy Birthday” resounded throughout the house. I’ve reached the age where each candle now represents a decade, so this year I was thankful for the limited puff needed to blow out the 3 solitary flames. Whilst this was all going on, I was quickly trying to gather my thoughts for the inaugural birthday speech. The last few years I’ve been determined to make a little more of the speech rather than the unplanned and embarrassed “thank you for coming” that is always met with a few heckles from the boisterous lads in the crowd smelling blood.

I’m sure that most of this year’s speech was not particularly profound, but one moment has stuck with me, and I’m hoping with some of my friends that were there that night. It went something along the lines of, ”It’s easy to love me and think I’m great at this point because most of you haven’t known me long or well enough to experience my rubbish (trash), but the more you know me, the more love you’ll need for me…”

Many of us really struggle to build consistent long lasting relationships that will walk through pain, hurt, miscommunication, differences in opinion, mistakes, and experiencing each other’s brokenness firsthand. The more you know someone, the more love you need for them. The good news is that we’ve already been shown the way to this beautiful and profound love. It’s not something unattainable. We can embrace and live out this love for others because God first loved us.

My most treasured relationships are not those formed overnight but those that have been tested and proved to be a beautiful picture of Agape. Selfless, sacrificial and unconditional. Easy words to write, I know. But the deep truth is that we can agape others, because we have ourselves already been “agaped” by God. Relationships are messy, hard and require a lot of work, but in my experience worth every last drop of blood sweat and tears. When you agape another the treasure is eternal.

I’ve had many failures, and let many people down by my selfishness, narrow mindedness and “rubbish.” But I’ve also had some glorious successes. I’m sure some of my closest friends would be able to point out my most disturbing weaknesses, but they’d much rather draw attention to my qualities and get most excited about my successes – they’ve learnt to Agape me. Just imagine if we built all our relationships with agape. Just imagine.

Here’s 4 really simple things I’ve learnt…

Confession (Addressing the Rubbish) – Be willing to have horribly hard and honest conversations. I don’t know how you deal with difficult conversations, but I often get really stuck. I can plan them and script them in my head, but I often lose all confidence in what I’d planned during the midst of them. However, to give myself some credit, one thing I decided some time ago was that I wouldn’t stop having them. And I haven’t. They don’t get easier or feel more comfortable, but I have no doubt that they are completely essential for any and all relationships.

Repentance (Saying sorry) – A simple little word that is often harder to get out of ones mouth than you could think possible. I’ve had to practice doing this over and over again. It’s rarely enjoyable, but always fruitful in keeping any relationship healthy and stable. If you’re doubting whether or not you need to say it, you almost certainly do. So get on with it, be generous with it.

Endurance (Never giving up) – The easiest thing in any relationship is to assign it as a failure. In today’s culture we love to have our “get out clause” close at hand, and we’re ready to extinguish our commitment at the first sign of difficulty. Be someone that commits, takes responsibility, and holds hope as a lantern in the dark places you find yourself in with others. It’s a choice to never give up. I’ve had relationships that seemed hopeless come back to life better than I imagined possible.

Prayer (Praying for others) – Most of us don’t nearly pray as much as we should for other people. We get too easily consumed with our own need. I know that my closest friends have often sacrificed their own needs in their prayers to pray for me. In truth I could really get better at this, but I have no doubt that prayer changes things and I know that prayer can be a constant source of strength, health, and protection for our relationships. Remembering each other in prayer is a beautiful and powerful picture of agape.

I wanted to sum all this up with a hymn called “The Sweetest Love.” I wrote it out of the love that I’ve experienced and the love that I hope I’ll become more adept at distributing year on year.


The sweetest love
I know not why
Has reached into this heart of mine
It’s trawled the the depths of darkest days
And taught me how to dance and praise

Oh love so sweet, Oh love divine
This love I own, such love is mine
The tender touch of sacrifice
The sweetest love
The sweetest love

The sweetest love
Has chased my soul
Relentless in its haste and thrill
Unwavering in wind and hail
Determined that my walk not fail

The sweetest love
Your songs refrain
Its notes sing out your saving name
I had no hope my mouth was dry
Until this soothing lullaby

The sweetest love
Like honeycomb
Poured over me as healing balm
Its fragrance pure from all disease
It’s your delight that clings to me

The sweetest love
Has won for all
A crown of gold and royal rule
In place of ashes beauty comes
And oh the joy of sweetest love