Religious people need to recapture the idea of love from secular humanists who have taken it over and recast it according to their limited conception of what a human being is and what it should be doing with its life. We all feel love to some degree. It seems that even some animals, dogs in particular, are capable of love of a sort. Love is clearly a basic reality of conscious existence, specifically of self-conscious existence, but there are aspects of love and we need to be aware of it in its spiritual form which is the root and source of all lesser forms.
When Christ came to this world his principal message was one of love. Love God and love your neighbour as yourself are the two great commandments, but what was this love of which he spoke? Nowadays we tend to understand spiritual love in terms of empathy or compassion but I believe that is a mistake. Divine love is fully personal and directed like a powerful beam of light whereas empathy and compassion have a diffused all things to all men quality to them. They are a warm blanket as opposed to a passionate intensity. The moon, shining by reflected light, as opposed to the sun blazing away with its own fire. They are kind but they do not cast out fear or lay down their lives for their friends. Before you point out times when they might have done just that I would ask you to distinguish between being motivated by genuine love and being motivated by a kind of compassion ideology. There is even in some people a pathology of compassion that arises when a person falls victim to the glamour of love and of being the one who loves and who therefore loves as a self-conscious act. Such a person might not be aware of this so it is not necessarily simply a pose but nor is it a response of spontaneous, unaffected innocence.
Divine love or humanitarian compassion? Which do we choose? One important difference between the two lies in full acceptance of freedom and suffering for the sake of spiritual good. Those who respond to divine love see man's destiny in God and will accept anything to follow that path. By contrast, the merely compassionate look for happiness and well-being in this world. So, do we seek our end in this life or in the higher life in God. Do we seek freedom and responsibility in terms of divine being and creation or is it just the removal of suffering that motivates us and determines our feelings?
The first commandment is to love God. This points to the fact, unknown or ignored by humanitarians, that real love is only possible in God. Only when you love God who is the source of love can you begin to know love as it really is and not just as it is reflected in the mortal human heart. We are back to the moon and the sun. Divine love cannot be known by those who do not love God, and the more we respond to divine love the more will that love affect all other loves which only exist because of God's love. Humanitarian compassion is a good thing in its own limited way but it is only for those who do not understand the love of God and it can never be a proper substitute for that.