Much of the world thinks that the way to eternal life looks like this: Do what God wants —> God gives eternal life as a reward for doing it. Some may argue that even Jesus supported it by saying:
“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.’ (Luke 10:25–28)
Taken out of context, the words of Jesus seem to say that this man could earn eternal life by loving God. Yet at that point Jesus explained that loving God is showing mercy to those you dislike and disagree with, in this case Samaritans. Not good news at all!
Like others faced with the challenge of showing their love for God by showing love toward people, this lawyer was unable to do it. Keeping the Law does not earn favor with God; it simply shows me how far short I fall. My love is inadequate.
In contrast, the gospel looks like this: God gives eternal life —> with that life He puts His love into our hearts so we can obey Him, and by obedience to His commands, we are loving others.
The first thing the lawyer did was question Jesus’ definitions. He said, “And who is my neighbor?” as if he could escape this command to love by narrowing the field. Maybe the neighbor is the nice person next door, or the one who invites me for tea, or the one who fixes my fence. Maybe the person next door is nasty and that is an excuse to avoid any kindness. Like the lawyer, I can find all sorts of reasons to be picky about who to love.
The layer inadvertently makes Jesus’ point for Him. Human love is picky. We put qualifiers on it, even choose who we think earns or deserves it.
In contrast, God wants me to love Him with all that I am and have. The New Testament clearly declares that loving others is the way to demonstrate love for Him and keep that Law of loving others. Again, God’s love is not picky. He is not trying to earn brownie points nor is He choosy based on anything about us. Jesus came and died because God loves. Period.
Jesus, to love as You love means being wholly yielded to the Holy Spirit. Not that You couldn’t do it without Him, but You did it by the Spirit’s enabling power. Your love is a sacrifice, a giving of Yourself, Your very life. Without having that life, I cannot love my neighbor nor can I love You with all my heart. Thank You that salvation provides what I need — Your great love without any strings attached — only that I pass it on.