The life of love to God and to our fellow human beings will be a life of action and of service. In the view of Jesus, love is an energetic power which sets all the faculties of the soul in vigorous operation.
If we truly love God, we will do His will. It avails us nothing to profess allegiance which is not evidenced by obedience. The way of righteousness is a strait one, and is entered by a narrow gate; that is, the Christian life is not a lax and lawless life, but one on which strict and strenuous demands are made.
Jesus often depicts in his parables the nature of the true life as involving watchfulness, fidelity, and labor. “Why do you stand here idle all day?” (Matt. 20:6) is the challenge of the Master in the parable of the Vineyard. Jesus’ disciples are laborers, servants, stewards. Their life is one of duty and responsibility.
He taught his disciples that they were not merely to love those who loved them, but to love also those who hated and injured them: "I say unto you, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully abuse you." Why? “In order that you may become [or, prove yourselves to be] the sons of your Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:43-44)
From these passages it is clear that one's "neighbor" is anyone whom we can help, and that love is, by its nature, large and generous, giving out in sympathy and service to all who come within the reach of its power.
For Jesus, love is not a calculating prudence which renders its services because it hopes for reward in return. No, to love God is to choose his perfect life as our pattern and goal, and to live in the spirit of it. Such is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it. Love to man is shown in a Love to Godlike estimate and treatment of others.
Such love requires that we strive to realize for our fellow human beings the achievement of divine love; that we view the rights and value of others as equal to our own, and regard and treat others in accord with those universal principles and laws of love and truth which are disclosed in God's treatment of human beings.
The righteousness of God is perfect, holy love, and the law of love for us is our likeness to God in our attitude and action.
When he was asked for a law by the observance of which one might attain eternal life, he cited the law of love. Love, then, is righteousness. The kingdom and the righteousness of God are to be sought and won by loving God supremely, and one's neighbor as himself.
But what, then, is love, and what specifically does love require? The elements of the true righteousness, which consists in love, may readily be gathered from the Sermon on the Mount. The qualities listed in the Beatitudes - humility, meekness, mercy, purity of heart, and peace - are among the characteristics of a true love to God and our fellow human beings.
Love prompts us to good deeds, to reconciliation with others, to self-restraint and discipline, to straight-forwardness and truthfulness in speech, to kindness and a forgiving spirit, even toward those who have done us injury.
Jesus often illustrated what such love requires: thereby affording us a clear view of his conception of love's nature. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a striking example. (Luke 10:30-37) In it, Jesus shows us at once what is the scope and the action of true love. Such love is universal; it knows nothing of the boundaries which separate social classes.
The law of love demands that even a despised Samaritan, if in distress, shall be served and helped. It requires something more than a compassionate sentiment or a patronizing pity. It requires action and effort, and, if need be, sacrifice. It is not satisfied with the theoretic sympathy which says, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," (James 2:16) but demands that what the sufferer's necessities require be done.
Love also requires us to always be ready to forgive injuries upon condition of repentance on the part of the wrong-doer. Forgiveness on our part is conceived by Jesus (Matt. 6:16-17) as a condition that precedes our reception of God's forgiveness, because the forgiving spirit is a test and measure of the desire for God-likeness.
Those whose readily grant forgiveness to any who have injured them shows themselves to be among those who embrace the life of love - recognizing, honoring, and obeying Jesus’ teachings.
If we wish to reap the benefits of the divine law of love, then we must consent to put our own lives under its sway. Love is a reciprocal principle; it is a law of right relationships among persons. Hence, the bestowal of the benefits of divine love calls for attitudes of humility and obedience on our part.
(Adapted from a Sermon by Rev. George Barker Stevens)