AGAPE is not self-seeking.
My “go-to” translation is the NIV, but whenever I’m doing a phrase by phrase study like this it’s always helpful to consider multiple translations. After all, every translation we have was created by a team of dedicated Christian scholars who know far more about Greek and Hebrew than I ever hope to.
Many Greek (when studying the NT) words convey a range of meanings that can be fleshed out in slightly different ways depending on their context. The Greek here literally means, AGAPE “does not seek the things of itself.”
Here are two additional solid translations of this phrase:
“does not insist on its own way” (ESV).
“does not pursue selfish advantage.” (Phillips)
I'm intrigued by Phillips version, "...does not pursue selfish advantage." Have you ever known a person who always seems to work situations for their own benefit? They seem nice and agreeable, etc. but there’s just this constant undertow; this manipulation of perspective, emotions etc.; constantly pushing things toward their benefit, their way, their idea. In today’s terms I think Paul might have penned this section of the love chapter, “Love isn’t passive aggressive.”
In a more general sense, “self-focus” is the antithesis of AGAPE.
AGAPE’s anthem is, “It’s not about me—it’s all about God and His Kingdom; It’s not about manipulating others according to my will, but empowering others toward wholeness in Christ.”
In another of Paul’s letters he nailed what this attribute of love is all about:
"Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (Phil. 2:3-8, NLT)
It is in this sense that Paul writes AGAPE “is not self-seeking.”
Thanks for reading. If you are enjoying this study--I think you'll totally enjoy Joyce Meyer's book on this subject (below). I encourage you to check it out!
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