What is so New about Jesus' Love Commandment?

Summary: I. Christian Agapē and New Testament Ethics - II. Erōs, Agapē, and Altruism in Hellenism and Christianity - III. Agapē: To Love Without Pretense - IV. Conclusion

The love commandment of Jesus of Nazareth is commonly held to be one of the most novel elements in Christian New Testament ethics, and yet Hebrew scripture emphasized the need to love God and neighbor as well. The Christian is called by Christ to build up a community of believers who work for a better world here and now as well as for the future end-time. The solidarity of believers who love God is grounded in the social character of human nature, and the eventual assumption of that nature into God’s trinitarian life. This new existential situation enables individuals to create a community of love that serves God, others, and the common good with alacrity. While obeying the will of God for the Christian surely has an impact on the present life, its most immediate and important objective is to learn how to love others as God does. St. Paul, in particular, prays that those under his tutelage will increase in love for others, because faith must express itself in love (cfr. Gal. 5:6).