The word "paradigm" suggest that we're getting at something that lies behind what you see. Like the gears inside of a clock. To a child, the hands just move. But for a watchmaker, there are precisely measured, finely tuned inner workings that produce the movement on the watch face. My paradigm drives what you are seeing in my behavior, my facial expressions, my choice of work, etc.
The agape paradigms suggests that everything I choose to do, everything I consider to be part of my active following of Jesus, of being an inhabitant of the kingdom on earth, should be driven by agape love springing forth from the well of my being. If I am instructed to give money, wash dishes, or fix a car, there are a number of ways I could do that. And if the standard for judging an action is to bring one's action itself into conformity with the expected norm, or the correct way of doing things, I can find a rather easy way out of following Jesus, but still maintaining a facade of being "spiritual," or exemplifying obedience, or whatever.
Words like Matthew 22:37-40 are often used to comfort, to assuage the unnecessary guilt of those who have not measured up in some way or another, according to accepted behavior norms. Well they should. They should also strike fear into our hearts.
If my idea of doing things in a Christian way amounts to (and to some extent, this is true for everyone) checking off boxes, or preserving stability, or making things pleasant, or increasing comfort and pleasure, Matt 22:37-40
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”asks a cutting question. A devastating question: have you loved the one in front of you? Have you placed their well-being above your preference, your comfort, and your convenience?
No, I haven't. And that's why I'm afraid. Afraid that I'm going to continue in a pattern of hurtful, or apathetic, or ambivalent behavior in such a way that paints a picture of well-being. I'm afraid of continuing as before, placing a band-aid on the gunshot wound so I can't see it, mentally blocking out the pain, and saying “all better!” with a big smile.
Of old, this meant putting on religion as if it made us righteous. Newsflash: our sin is savvier than that now. Religion is out. Don't be religious, says everybody. Don't just go to church for the sake of ritual. Right, well who exactly is doing that, these days?
So now, my un-religious behavior is still geared towards self-preservation, still places comfort, security, and convenience above the well-being of the person in front of me, and still does a masterful cover-up job on the vile inner reality of my self-centered appropriate behavior. Still just as much potential for agape-less behavior. Still a lot of pretending.
Agape must come, it must convict, it must destroy the mask. It must then consume me with desire to see good come to the person in front of me and drive out the priority of my comfort, ego, convenience, image, or momentary cravings. Come Lord. And then I will go back to the temple and offer my sacrifice.