What ‘The Good Place’ Teaches Us About Agape Love

Most of the discussion surrounding the comedy television series The Good Place focuses on philosophy and the struggle to define what it means to be good. But it brings up other themes too, like what agape love looks like.

For those who can get past the works-based theology (amongst other things), you’ll enjoy the moral discourse the show prompts: right versus wrong, generosity versus selfishness, love versus hate.

In a clever bit of social media marketing, The Good Place Facebook page followed up on a moment from the series posting as Kristen Bell’s character Eleanor Shellstrop. In the show, Eleanor has a near-death experience and responds by resolving to be a better person.

My name is Eleanor Shellstrop and I think I might be a monster. I'm rude. I'm selfish. I cyberbullied Ryan Lochte until…

Posted by The Good Place on Monday, February 5, 2018

To varying degrees, most of us have experienced a similar transformative moment. From it we connect with our mortality and reset our focus on being grateful, living with intention and making an impact while we’re here on earth.

Through confronting and overcoming her selfishness, Eleanor is learning how to become a more loving person. She’s doing this by changing her focus from inward to outward. In Christian theology, changing our focus from inward (on ourselves) to outward (on others) and upward (on God) is the transformation we all experience when we allow the Holy Spirit to influence our lives.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2

When we accept Christ as our Lord and Saviour, the Holy Spirit enters our lives and prompts us to put aside our old ways in favour of pursuing God’s ways. Galatians 5:22-23 outlines the different byproducts we experience when we allow the Holy Spirit to work inside of us.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Love is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit listed. And for good reason. When we experience this fruit in our own lives, we’re able to move beyond our own selfishness and become better, kinder, more generous people.

There are different types of love described in the Bible and the love manifested in us through the Holy Spirit is translated from the Greek word agape. This type of love is a choice rather than a feeling, and describes God’s unconditional love for us. C.S. Lewis calls this love “charity” in his book The Four Loves, describing it as a Christian virtue to achieve; a love that exists regardless of circumstances and chooses to think of others.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

Philippians 2:3

If you’re ready to pull an Eleanor Shellstrop, not because you’re trying to get into Heaven (that’s not how it works), but because in doing so you will become more like Christ, here are a few ideas.

How to be a more loving person

  • Serve others (Galatians 5:13)
  • Be generous (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)
  • Reflect on your own mistakes, repent and stop sinning (John 8:11)
  • Ask for forgiveness from others who you’ve wronged (Matthew 18:15-17, 1 John 1:9)
  • Surround yourself with people who demonstrate kindness and loving tendencies (1 Corinthians 15:33, Proverbs 13:20)
  • Forgive those who have wronged us—let go. This doesn’t mean they’re off the hook but you’re moving past it for yourself, not letting it hold you back (Mark 11:25; Matthew 18:21-22)
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Writing down things you’re grateful for makes you more likely to remember it and focuses your mind on being positive rather than fixating on the negative things from your day (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Colossians 3:15)
  • Do loving things for others without expecting anything in return (Luke 6:35-37)
  • Be kind and loving to yourself—it starts from inside. (Psalm 139:14, Ephesians 5:29, Proverbs 19:8)
  • Don’t take everything personally, it’s not about you (Proverbs 19:18, Ecclesiastes 7:21-22)
  • Get rid of negative self-talk and shift to a place of self-love, forgiveness, acceptance, compassion for yourself (Proverbs 19:11, James 1:19)
  • Choose to see the best in yourself and in others (Matthew 7:12)
  • Learn how to respond in love rather than react in emotion (1 Peter 4:8)

Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless – cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything – encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

1 Peter 4:7-11 (The Message)

As you can see, love is a central theme of the Bible and it’s through God’s love for us we are able to experience eternal life with Him—the actual good place.

Robyn Roste

Robyn Roste is a professional writer with blogging, marketing and tourism experience. She also has a bachelor of journalism and diplomas in media and communications and biblical studies.

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