On his last night as a human, Jesus spoke in depth to his followers who were gathered with him to celebrate the Passover meal. At some point during the proceedings, he gave us another Commandment – to love as he loved. This was the handing on of the torch from teacher to students, envisioning that they themselves would one day be handing on the torch to their own students, and they to theirs, and so on and so on, all the way down to us.
We now stand with that same torch in our hands, lit by Jesus. And just like those who were gathered around Jesus on his last night as a human, we too are commanded to love as he loved.
But how did Jesus love?
Organized Christian religion has branded the Love Commandment (if it mentions it at all) as a form of charity – “caritas”. Charity is giving expecting nothing in return. It is an act; a form of discipline: something that you do though not necessarily feel or even feel like doing. Unfortunately, charity today usually comes with the promise and expectation of a tax receipt or some other type of acknowledgment as an enticement, so I doubt that this is the Love Commandment that Jesus intended.
Paul’s definition of charity (1 Corinthians 13) is probably closer to the mark, but even so, it sets forth a definition that is more a list of “do’s” and “don’t’s” rather than a natural expression or emanation of being.
Here’s my point: It ain’t love if you have to purposely perform a certain act (kindness, for example, or patience). Genuine acts of love come naturally, without forethought and without being prompted. I believe this was the state of love that Jesus modeled and the state of love that we need to aspire to in order to follow the Love Commandment.
As a human, Jesus loved. In fact, he loved so much, he became love. We need to get there, to that place where we not just love but actually become love – where we do acts of love not because we’ve been told to do them or have been shown to do them or feel obligated to do them, but because we cannot conceive of not doing them, any more than we could conceive of not breathing.
When acts of love become our default, then we’ve arrived at that state of love where Jesus dwelt just before he died, but I don’t think most of us are there yet.
How do we get there?
I know of only one way, though some people might mention two.
Let’s talk about that second way first. The second way is the way of conscious caritas, where you perform acts of love on purpose (with an emphasis on “perform”, meaning, the acts are often done to be seen by others). Certainly, making the choice to be kind is better than making the choice to be unkind, but still, it’s a choice: a conscious decision of the will. Yes, you can train your will just like you can train your body, eventually getting to the point where your default is to choose kindness, regardless of the situation. But then kindness becomes like a habit or reflex, something that is done without thinking about it, but something that has no or very little emotional involvement, like giving annually to charities that send you their promo annually.
I believe the Love Commandment is more than just making a choice to love, which is why I believe there is only one true way to reach the level of love that Jesus commanded us to reach, and that is by asking God to love through us.
When you open yourself to letting God love through you, two amazing things happen – one, you don’t have to work at loving – it’s not an act that you have to consciously or habitually perform, and two, you love not only with your will but with your heart. Your emotions become involved: There is genuine love, not just an arms-length act of love.
This way of love is, I believe, the only way to achieve Jesus’ Love Commandment. It’s also the simplest. Here’s how you do it: You ask God to help you to love like Jesus loved. That’s it. That’s all you need to do, and if your request is sincere, God will then work through you so you can love like Jesus loved.
And then one day, if you continue on this way of love, you will finally become love, like Jesus.