Love of God and love of neighbor are equally crucial to our relationship with God, as stated clearly in Jesus’ commandment to love. “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Cain who belonged to the evil one and slaughtered his brother” (1 John 3:11-12). Our self-interest is no more important than the welfare of our neighbor: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). If God shows love for His sinful children, who are we to judge others differently? “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
Jesus’ commandment to love teaches us that the expression of love finds its greatest fulfillment in adoring and helping those persons who are most vulnerable, poor, afflicted, or caught in a pattern of sin. The worthiness of a person, in the eyes of God, depends on his or her loving service rather than any status, belief, group membership, or achievement. Jesus illustrates this in the famous parable of the good Samaritan, which contrasts the compassion of a widely despised person with the indifference of a priest and a Jew of high social status. Jesus asked a scholar, “’Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?’ He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Luke 10:36-37).
Denying compassion and assistance to another is an affront to Christ. “If someone…sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in Him?” (1 John 3:17). Jesus predicted that persons blind to others’ needs will say: “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Matt 25:37-40).
Jesus’ Commandment to Love Is Not Merely a Guideline
Jesus’ commandment to love demands that we focus on loving God and neighbor, and combined with his references to murder, it is hard to reconcile in spirit with killing a human being at any stage after creation. On the one hand, Jesus’ example of compassion and love demands that we extend compassion to mothers distressed by a pregnancy, especially when contending with extreme emotional pain or health risks. A decision to kill the unborn child, however, always derives from some interpretation of self-interest or entitlement to reject suffering. There is no place in the Bible where Jesus exempts us from the commandment to love at all times.
It can at times be harsh to ask mothers to undergo an emotionally excruciating birth of their child. We make a grave mistake, however, when we ignore Jesus’ harsh demands for an extraordinary level of commitment to loving God and our all persons.
It is not easy to gain eternal life, “for the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mat 7:14). Even those people who seem most holy have not yet achieved their goal: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20).
Our efforts to enter heaven must be uncompromising: “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell” (Mark 9:47).
We should not simply expect a free pass on the day of judgment. Those who are denied eternal life with God will also suffer greatly. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Mat 25:41). Only the truly faithful, good persons will survive: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).