Had the essence of the divine law consisted in deeds, it could not possibly have been expressed in a single word; for no one deed is comprehensive of all others embraced in the law. But as it consists in an affection of the soul, one word suffices to express it– but only one. Fear, though due to God and enjoined by Him, is limited in its sphere and distant in character. Trust, hope, and the like, though essential features of a right state of heart towards God, are called into action only by personal necessity, and so are– in a good sense, it is true, but still are properly– selfish affections; that is to say, they have respect to our own well- being. But LOVE is an all- inclusive affection, embracing not only every other affection proper to its object, but all that is proper to be done to its object; for as love spontaneously seeks to please its object, so, in the case of men to God, it is the native well spring of a voluntary obedience. It is, besides, the most personal of all affections. One may fear an event, one may hope for an event, one may rejoice in an event; but one can love only a Person. It is the tenderest, the most unselfish, the most divine of all affections. Such, then, is the affection in which the essence of the divine law is declared to consist.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary
Let’s be honest. Most of what we do in life is selfish. We want something that will somehow benefit us, and we determine our actions to achieve our objective.
With that having been said, there is only one thing, one action, one feeling, that is not, by nature, selfish, and that is agape/charity/LOVE. I don’t mean “loving” someone so they will love us back, nor “love” which MUST HAVE its object for its own pleasure (that is actually “lust”). I mean giving of yourself for the benefit of another.
Think charity in its purest form, not giving away clothes you no longer need so you can make room in your closet, or tithing to get a tax deduction. I mean giving away something intrinsically valuable to you to someone else with no expectation or desire for something in return. That is the true essence of love. Think about God the Father giving up his Son so that we could have eternal life as the prime example. Or maybe it means being kind to someone who gets on your nerves.
In the above excerpt from a commentary, I found it very interesting to hear that hope and faith are actually used when we have a need, making our use of them inherently selfish. This means that love is the only motivation and action that is unselfish.
Then it pointed out that love is the true essence of the Law. That means that at the heart of all God does, and all that God asks US to do, the result should include the unselfish benefit of those around us. Just obeying a command with our body while our mind despises those around us defeats the purpose of obedience in the first place. If we don’t do it out of love for God and love for others, it doesn’t even count in His eyes.
And remember, love requires people – at least two. Since it requires being in relationships with others, we cannot remain isolated from others because we won’t be able to express God’s love. Love requires a person for its object that will be benefited by our actions.
So if you want to know what pleases God more than obeying the Law, find ways to express God’s self-sacrificial love toward others. If you love as He loves, you fulfill all the Law and the Prophets. That means loving with action and deed, not necessarily with emotions. Yes, having faith and hope are important, but love is the outward expression of a person confident in God’s presence, and ever hopeful for his goodness. If you are not sure how to express His love, ask Him for direction – He already has someone in mind.