No founder of a religion, no philosopher or moralist has lived this love as Jesus did. We can reach God’s heart only if we encounter Jesus. In Christ the love of God became manifest. The Word became flesh. Jesus came down into the life of physical and emotional relationships. At all times he was the kingly giver, the man who gave riches.
Jesus knew only the crystal-clear, purified love of the kingly service for which he came into this world, not in order to make us his servants but to serve and give up his life (Matt. 20:28). He revealed the love that forgives everything and gives everything. He revealed the love that includes enemies as well as friends, the love that allows no injury to any opponent or his property – much less to his physical life (Matt. 5:38–48). Yes, he showed that love is not limited by possessions or property. His love is the unconditional and the absolute for which we all long. Such love could never accept being frustrated by outward circumstances.
The love of Jesus is forever and is boundless, or it is nothing. There is no other characteristic of Jesus, and of a life lived for Jesus, than love. Therefore, Jesus said that by the love that his own would have for one another the world would know that they belonged to him (John 13:34–35). Knowing himself to be one with the original source of love, he established love as the primary characteristic of his being.
The cross of Jesus is the ultimate gift of God’s love. Here our loveless and lovesick lives come to an end. Here begins the new life of divine justice which can be no other justice than that of love. Previously, we gave ourselves to the service of degenerate and degrading ways of love; now we give ourselves to the service of justice and perfect love, which belongs to all.
When we find this deepest and all-embracing fulfilment of our need for love – when our hearts are as filled with powers of love as the sun is filled with the flames of fire which it hurls out into the farthest reaches – then we are set free from possessive desire. The forgiveness and cleansing which Christ gives to our degenerate love life goes hand in hand with the outpouring of the flood of his love. Whoever is surrounded by this spirit will feel at home only in the atmosphere in which Jesus himself lived. In Christ we experience how God loves us; then we no longer expect to be loved by others but seek life’s happiness in love toward all.
This ultimate and highest love that we can attain comes from the Spirit and is the highest calling of the Spirit. In this direction alone lies the solution to the problem of life. If someone struggles with erotic passions, not a spark of love’s energy should remain lost; no life power should be suppressed. On the contrary, such a person should look into the heart of God at each moment, opening himself or herself to God in order to live out love – God’s love – in every human relationship. By allowing the erotic life to be ruled completely and exclusively by agape, selfish desire is conquered through agape’s overflowing power.
The community of life which grows in this way cannot allow anything to remain outside of its circle. It holds fast to everything that belongs to life. All those who have surrendered to this glowing sun cannot withhold any area of their life from it; again and again they will return to it with all that they are and have. When the Spirit of love came over the first Christians they became one in heart and soul. They greeted one another with the holy kiss; they shared in the breaking of bread and had all things in common (Acts 2:42-47). Among them the meaning of brotherhood in the common life and of freedom in the pure spirit became revealed. They had become one family. In them was revealed the mystery of organic community.
The all-embracing Spirit unites all freed souls. It sets free the powers of love in each soul to flow out toward one another, no longer dependent on sympathy or antipathy, or on the conditions of the body. The Spirit rules over the uniting of humankind; everything good in life comes together under its power. Wherever freedom, purity, and the love of God reign, wherever Christ lives in individuals, wherever his Spirit unfolds all gifts and powers, a living unity is growing. This unity is to be seen as one body.
The essay “Love Divine and Human” appeared in 1920 in the book Junge Saat: Lebensbuch einer Jugendbewegung (“Young Seed: A Handbook for a Youth Movement”). It was first published in English in Eberhard Arnold, Love and Marriage in the Spirit (Rifton, NY: Plough, 1965).
Article edited for length and clarity.