Jesus made love the central focus of Christian spirituality when He rewrote the second of the two great commandments of the Old Testament. He established a new way for God’s people who put their trust in Jesus.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
No longer are God’s people to love one another “as they love themselves.” We are to love “as I have loved you.” When the Law is used to define and assess right standing with God (righteousness), love appears to be given by God and received by us on the basis of performance. When I do what is right, I receive love. When I do what is wrong, love is withdrawn. Consequently, we love ourselves (and others) through the lens of performance.
In contrast, God’s Kingdom is defined by grace and mercy that empowers us to live like Jesus as we progressively surrender to His love for us and others. As we respond to the invitation to experience His love, He expects us to change our way and behavior to His higher standard. That is, “Love one another as I have loved you.” We become centered in, nourished by, and motivated from His love for us and our experience of that love.
We are called to abide—that is, to be in Him so that His love for us and in us flows through us. His love empowers our desire to be like Him and to believe we are now in Him so that we behave like Him. Behavior is always the echo of belief.