The whole of true religion can be summed up in the spiritual love of Jesus.
To love God and to love our neighbor was said by our Lord to be the fulfilling of the law and the prophets. All Christians believe that God reveals Himself as Christ; so the love of Jesus is in truth the love of God.
Love as experienced by human beings may be on either of two levels, the human or the divine. These are not the same. They differ not only in intensity and elevation but in kind.
Human love is undoubtedly the best thing left to the human race. Though it is often perverted and sometimes degraded, it is still Adam’s best product, and without it, life on earth would be unendurable. Let us imagine what the world would be like if every trace of human love were suddenly removed. The heart recoils from the contemplation of such a horror. Without love, earth would not differ from hell except for the difference of location. Let us treasure what is left of love among the sons of men. It is not perfect, but it makes life bearable and even sweet here below.
But human love is not divine love and should never be confused with it. Among the sentimental religionists, the two are accepted as being the very same and no distinctions are made. This is a great moral blunder and one that leads to spiritual frustration and disappointment. If we are to think clearly and pray rightly, we must recognize the difference between love that is merely human and that other love which cometh down from above.
Charles Wesley knew the difference and made it clear in his famous lines:
Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down.
Here all grades and degrees of human love are acknowledged, and the true love that comes down from heaven is placed above them as far as the heaven is above the earth. This is not only good poetry but also it is good theology.
The human heart can love the human Jesus as it can love the human Lincoln, but the spiritual love of Jesus is something altogether different from and infinitely superior to the purest love the human heart can know. Indeed, it is not possible to love Jesus rightly except by the Holy Spirit. Only the third Person of the Trinity can love the second Person in a manner pleasing to the Father. The spiritual love of Jesus is nothing else but the Spirit in us loving Christ the Eternal Son.
Christ, after the flesh, receives a great deal of fawning attention from the liberal and the modernist, but love that is not the outflow of the indwelling Holy Spirit is not true spiritual love and cannot be acceptable to God. We do Christ no honor when we do no more than to give Him the best of our human love. Even though we love Him better than we love any other man, still it is not enough if He merely wins first place in competition with Socrates or Walt Whitman. He is not rightly loved until He is loved as very God of very God, and the Spirit within us does the loving.
There is much in present-day gospel circles that illustrates the distinction we are pointing out. A great many loud protestations of love for Christ leave the discerning heart with the impression that they are but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. Innumerable sweet love ballads are sung to Jesus by persons who have never known the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit or felt the shock that comes with a true sight of the sinful pollution of nature.
While the all-important distinction between the human and the spiritual love of Jesus is one that must be discerned, and one which can scarcely be explained, we yet venture to point out some marks that may distinguish the two.
Reverence will always be present in the heart of the one who loves Christ in the Spirit. The Spirit gives a holy solemnity to every thought of Jesus, so that it is psychologically impossible to think of the true Christ with humor or levity. Neither can there be any unbecoming familiarity. The Person of Christ precludes all such.
Then, self-abasement is always found in the heart that loves Jesus with true spiritual love. When Paul saw Jesus, he fell on his face. John fell down as dead, and every soul that ever saw and felt the terror and wonder of His glorious Presence, has known some such experience of self-abasement.
It is important that we know whether our relation to Jesus is divine or human. It will pay us to find out now.
Tozer Editorial: The Spiritual Love Of Jesus, from Alliance Weekly, 04 November 1950