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 [ESV]
Some see this passage as a formal commendation of the way of works. If you want a way of salvation by doing works, this is it (with the implication that you won’t be able to do it). It is more likely that it is a word against faith-by-works. It is not what we do, considered as a work that counts toward merit, that matters, but our attitude. If we really love God in the way of which Jesus speaks, then we rely on him, not ourselves. This kind of love is our response to God’s love for us, not the cause of his acceptance of us. Jesus is not commending a new system of legalism different from the old one, but pointing to the end of all legalism. The lawyer wanted a rule or a set of rules that he could keep and so ‘merit ‘deserve’ eternal life. Jesus is telling him that eternal life is not a matter of keeping rules at all. To live in love is to live the life of the Kingdom of God. When we recognize the importance of the realm of the soul and spirit; if that area is sound, our whole person is well. Our attitude towards God determines the rest. If we really love Him, we love our neighbor too.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.1 John 4:20