I’ve heard people claim that there is no such thing as unselfish love. They believe that even the most altruistic act has a selfish motive. If not for God, this might be true. Before the New Testament, the term agape was almost never used in Greek literature. The Bible uses it 116 times. Jesus uses it when he gives the golden rule to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30), when he says that “God so loved the world he sent his only son” (John 3:16), and when he commands, “As I have loved you, so must you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Agape refers to a love which is freely given without counting the cost or calculating one’s own profit. With agape, you love simply because you choose to love. When considered this way, it’s clear why agape is so important to Jesus—it’s the love he expressed toward us. There was nothing lovable about us, nor did he (as God) stand to gain anything from loving us. Yet he did love us, and he calls us to reflect that love.

The ability to listen and learn from others is a great expression of agape. Every conversation is an exchange of information. While it can sometimes be like a tug of war—with each person trying to get the other to share what they know—more often it’s the opposite, with each person trying to share his own thoughts or ideas rather than listening. As you let agape work in your heart, you may find yourself becoming more interested in the people around you.

Another way that agape is a powerful resource in the workplace is its ability to speed the growth of trust. Trust is a critical ingredient to all relationships. It affects how others respond to anything you ask of them, whether they are customers, employees, or suppliers. Here’s where agape comes in: When people know that you love them, they trust you more. This is because they see that you have decided to seek their best interests. Agape is best demonstrated, not spoken. If you truly allow yourself to desire someone else’s best interests, it will show up without anything being said.

A third benefit of agape is its ability to act as an antidote for selfishness. Nothing can ruin good leadership as quickly as selfishness. When employees suspect their leader is making decisions out of self-interest, they quickly come to distrust everything he does. It is natural for leaders to be given most of the credit for their team’s success, but with this recognition comes the temptation to “believe your own press” and seek ways to continue to advance your status in an organization. If you put your advancement ahead of your team’s goals and vision or use your authority for your personal benefit, your employees will catch on very soon and begin to distrust you. When you make a practice of seeking the success of your coworkers and employees, your focus shifts away from your own needs and desires and dissolves the temptation to use your authority for selfish reasons.

This article is adapted with permission from Evans’ book Fruit at Work: Mixing Christian Virtues with Business.


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