When Jesus talks about love, He isn’t talking about the good-feeling emotions that the rest of us think of as love. We love our pets and certain clothes and favorite TV shows, but none of that is what Jesus means by love. We love our parents and our spouses and our children and friends, but none of that matters much to Jesus, either. No, the love that Jesus talks about is so radical, even to modern people, that it was probably incomprehensible to most of those who originally heard Him speak. And the fact that He can express that radical kind of love so well strongly suggests that He is precisely who and what He claims to be: Jesus is the Son of God, come to earth two thousand years ago to tell us the truth about reality and how we can live our best eternal lives.
You will likely need to read and think about much of what is on this website before you have fully grasped all that Jesus means when He talks about love. There is no single word in any language that adequately expresses it. Nearly everything that Jesus teaches in the Biblical Gospels is related to this radical form of love, and the reasons for this will be clearer to you when you better understand the primary role of consciousness in the makeup of reality. Simply put, it is impossible to be a follower of Jesus unless you have made practicing radical, transformational love a primary focus of your life, and this is true whether you are a traditional Christian or a follower of the original Way of Jesus as He taught it two thousand years ago. And we must always take into account as we read His words the fact that when Jesus was on earth, to speak against the prevailing religion was a capital crime, so a lot of what He was trying to say had to be said obscurely. All of which means that although this section is labeled “Love,” it is by no means exhaustive of the topic.
With all of that in mind, the following passage is foundational. And it is among the most radical sets of words ever spoken:
Some Pharisees were testing Jesus, and one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question. He said, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Upon these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (MT 22:35-40). So, why is that such a radical answer? Because by adding to it what He said about the Law and the Prophets – what the Jews of Jesus’s day called our Christian Old Testament – Jesus might as easily have told them to throw away all their holy scrolls and replace them all with God’s Law of Love. And it is clear from many of His subsequent teachings that this is indeed what Jesus means to say!
Jesus proceeds to take His teachings on love to what look to us like absurd extremes. He says, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (LK 6:35-36).
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (MT 5:43-48).
Jesus lived at a time when slavery was common, women were subservient, and human life was far less valuable than it seems to us today. And yet when a man with leprosy called to Him, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean,” Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed (MT 8:2-3). And this, when lepers were being driven from the cities, and certainly they never were touched! Jesus also made a point of dining with tax collectors, sinners, and others who were the social lepers of His day (see MT 9:10). And repeatedly He pointed out the meek and lowly as exemplary individuals. For example, when He saw the wealthy putting their gifts into the temple treasury, and He then saw a poor widow putting in her two lepta (equivalent to two copper pennies), He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them, for they all contributed to the offering from their surplus; but she, from her poverty, put in all that she had to live on” (LK 21:1-4). And He considered the innocence of children to be our example to follow, which would have been confounding at a time when children were of lowly rank, they often died young, and they were certainly nobody’s role model. He frequently said things like, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (MK 10:14-15).
The people of Jesus’s day were cliquishly bound to their clans and tribes almost beyond belief. Even Jesus said early in His ministry that He had come to preach just to the Jews, and He softened that stance only when He found His teachings getting a warmer reception among the Samaritan minority and some others than they were getting among some of His own Jewish kindred. But as Jesus’s ministry matures, it becomes clear that He is developing a real affection for the Samaritans especially, so He makes them the heroes of some of His parables. But the point for Jesus is that we are to love even strangers and those who hate us.
The Jewish clergy tested Jesus endlessly! And He often tested them in return. This parable about the Good Samaritan is among His best-known stories. It is one of those cases where a religious lawyer’s testing of Jesus prompts Him to test the lawyer right back, and it is also one of those cases where Jesus shows Jews – and especially Jewish clergy – to be in the wrong, while a member of the despised Samaritan minority is the hero of His parable.
A religious lawyer stood up and put Jesus to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 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 Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he encountered robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by coincidence a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was on a journey came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed compassion to him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same” (LK 10:25-37).
It was Jesus’s own encounters with Samaritans, and especially their receptivity to Him and to His teachings, that prompted Him eventually to send His disciples out to preach among them. And early in His ministry Jesus had an especially wonderful encounter with a Samaritan woman. We know her as the Woman at the Well.
“So then, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that He was making and baptizing more disciples than John the Baptist (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing; rather, His disciples were), He left Judea and went away again to Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, tired from His journey, was just sitting by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
“A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away to the city to buy food. So the Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘How is it that You, though You are a Jew, are asking me for a drink, though I am a Samaritan woman?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus replied to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” She said to Him, “Sir, You have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do You get this living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty; but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.”
The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I will not be thirsty, nor come here to draw water.” He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said to Him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this which you have said is true.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and yet you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship.” Jesus said to her, “Believe Me, woman, that a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming, and even now has arrived, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming, He who is called Christ; when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am He, the One speaking to you.”
And at this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman. Yet no one said, “What are You seeking?” or, “Why are You speaking with her?” So the woman left her waterpot and went into the city, and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is He?” They left the city and were coming to Him (JN 4:1-30). Jesus made many converts to His teachings among the Samaritans that day! And the “living water” that Jesus talks about here actually does exist in the afterlife. Jesus knows about that living water! This passage is one of the exciting Gospel proofs that Jesus Himself is genuine.
There are two long sermons in the Gospels – The Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain – where important teachings by Jesus can easily get lost. Here is a portion of The Sermon on the Plain that is directly relevant to Jesus’s teachings on radical love: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who are abusive to you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat people the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (LK 6:27-36).
Even as Jesus is being nailed to the cross, He demonstrates a love for His tormentors so intense that as nails are being pounded into His wrists and feet, His foremost concern is to assure those doing the pounding that He forgives them, and that God also forgives them, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (LK 23:34).
Radical Love is utterly and profoundly transformational! And it is only the sort of intensely radical love that Jesus teaches that has the power to raise our personal consciousness vibrations, and thereby to make a real spiritual difference in our lives. Two thousand years ago Jesus knew things, said things, and did things that prove Him to be precisely who and what He claims to be.