Is agapê just a benevolence, as on Nygren's view, or does it involve a seeking for unity? I think one way to an answer is to look at God's love as presented in the New Testament.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Now, the damned live forever, too, and it is not this kind of life that the text is talking about. Rather, it is an eternal life of knowing God, of living in the Father and the Son (cf. John 17:21).
God;s love is manifested in his acting that we might be reconciled and united with God. Now we can understand God.s intentions in two ways, which can be conveniently expressed by imagining God telling us of his intention:
- I intend your reconciliation and union with God.
- I intend your reconciliation and union with me.
On the first version, we can understand this as follows. God, being omniscient, knows that Patricia's highest good is union with God. And being loving, he intends that Patricia achieve that highest good. In this, God has an intention we can all have in the same way. We can all seek Patricia.s highest good, and we can all pursue Patricia's reconciliation and union with God. As it happens, God is the one who can pursue it most effectively. But that does not imply a difference in intention.
On the second version, however, what God pursues is Patricia's union with him, best indicated by Castaneda's quasi-indicator "him*". When we pursue Patricia's union with God, we are pursuing something essentially different from what God is pursuing.
The distinction is easy to see in other contexts. There is a world of difference between drill sergeant who wants to train the soldiers to obey him, and the drill sergeant who wants to train the soldiers to obey their superior, which in this case happens to be the drill sergeant. (The distinction would remain even if the drill sergeant necessarily was their superior.) In the case of the drill sergeant, what is preferable is that he train soldiers to obey their superior.
However, love differs here from obedience. For there is something incomplete about a husband's love if he desires merely that his wife love her spouse, reasoning, perhaps, that it is a good thing for a married person to love the spouse, and his wife is a married person, hence it is good for her to love her spouse. Granted, that is a good, and so he should desire this good for his wife. But he should, over and beyond that, desire that his wife love him*. And if his wife does not love him, it is a sign of something deeply lacking in his love for her if he is merely saddened that his wife is not a spouse-loving person.
Our reconciliation and union with God is a good thing, and being good, it is something that God pursues. But he does not pursue it impersonally. God pursues it in love, in the way that a husband loves his wife, as Scripture emphasizes. He desires our reconciliation and union with him*. I do not have a proof text for this claim. But think what would happen if in all the texts in which God lovingly, often sadly, uses the phrase "my people". Now replace this with "God's people". For instance, in Zechariah, God says: "they shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and righteousness" (8:8). Consider the replacement: "they shall be God's people, and God (or haShem) will be their God, in faithfulness and righteousness." That would still be happy news, but the lover essentially speaks in the first person, except perhaps as a joke.