Consider: 34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (New International Version).
The imperative here is “AS I have loved you.” How can we possibly love as God loves? It might help to understand something about how God loves:
First: Jesus loved ever person he ever met with an unique love, as if that person was the only one who existed, as if the disposition of that person mattered ultimately in eternity. We, by contrast, tend to group people to pick our friends…
Are you Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, man or woman, black or white, or these days, green? I don’t think Jesus really cared if you were a fisherman, tax collector, sinner, Pharisee, Saducee, lawyer, scribe or rich young ruler. He saw and loved individuals
God knows everyone by name. He knows your name and loves you “Just as (You) Are.” This is how Jesus loved. This is how we are to love.
Second: Jesus loved everyone equally, you might say, universally. No one was left out of his love. True, he had harsh words for religious rulers and drove the money lenders from the temple with a vengeance, but we must remember this: The opposite of love is not anger or even hostility, it is indifference. So the father tells his son: Yes, I am hard on you, but it is only because I love you. If I didn’t care, I would not bother with you at all!
This is the task, then, first to love everyone we meet as individual children of God, not in groups and ALSO not based on what we can get in return. Jesus gave his love, freely, whether the people returned it or not.
Second we are to love universally because every person is special and everyone matters and we all matter, together… Thanks be to God.