The Freedom of Agape

Eberhard Arnold tried to guide fellow seekers to a richer understanding and experience of human love – one aligned with God’s divine love. His insights on the connection between eros and agape – love human and divine – are as timely as ever.

Now, some may ask about those who can never find the happiness of unity between two in body, soul, and spirit; here we stand before the mystery of a most noble calling of God’s love. People who are deeply unhappy in their disappointed or frustrated desires need to be touched by powers from the eternal world before they can arrive at a decision that makes them completely happy. Those who long for the garden of love when it is closed to them, who rattle its locked gates, cannot attain this happiness.

It may be, however, that to some the way of marriage is barred by bitter experience. There may be others who do not feel drawn to the opposite sex. They all can find an unsuspected wealth of happiness in their lives if the holy decisiveness of God’s love breaks through within them. None of love’s energy should be wasted or go unused. No life power should be suppressed. It is essential, then, to rise up out of the gloomy chamber, out of the smoky city, out of the valley filled with fog and sickly vapor, so that one’s vision becomes free, the heart opens wide, and the lungs breathe pure air. It is essential that all energies be converted into the highest and purest powers so that they can develop unbroken and unrestrained.

There is a complete freeing from selfish desire when eros is wedded in everlasting faithfulness to agape. Those who can be liberated once and for all from the sexual in this way are some of the happiest of people. They are able to love more than others because their entire time and strength are free, because agape, God’s love, exclusively dominates their relationships to all men and women. Through them, the heavenly kingdom can break in upon earth more freely because the stream of their love moves in one single direction. In this sense Jesus spoke of those who are eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, and Paul spoke of those for whom it is better to remain single because their mission requires a special preparedness.

Women and men for whom the way to marriage seems to be closed must not become embittered and withdrawn from life and love. They must not stifle the best within themselves. They must never give themselves over to desires that prevent the awakening and unfolding of what is best in them, above all, that which is of God in them. Rather, they have received a higher calling in which all their powers of love are kindled and revived by the generous, sunny love of God. Their powers of love are not spent in possessive desire but wholeheartedly dedicated to enthusiastic, lavish giving. Here love to many, to all, comes into its own, love that wants nothing for itself but is fulfilled in giving.

Adapted from God’s Revolution (Walden, NY: Plough, 2021). Read the original publication from 1921 here.

Article edited for length and clarity.