This is a serious question for self-examination. The key to discovering the answer is in determining the criteria for quantitative measurement. In a self-determining culture which supports the free-for-all mentality of “there are no absolutes,” some would say “I am a loving person,” while others would disagree with their self-assessment. Who then ultimately has the “absolute” authority to determine the answer to the question? I’ll give you a hint: He isn’t human, He is divine.
When Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” did he add the qualifier, “perfectly”? Did Jesus say, only if you keep My commandments 100%, then you can say you love Me? No, He didn’t. Because even if we consider the audience to whom Jesus spoke, they were definitely not a bunch of “perfect” guys.
Consider first, that scholars suggest that all the Apostles were aged 13-15 years-old on the low side, and 18-20 years-old maximum. Some were married that we know of, others we simply don’t know anything about them at all. What we do know is, their age would determine their maturity level, both spiritually and emotionally. Second, the Biblical record gives us some details on their actions during the three years they spent with Jesus, and much of it is not pretty. The Gospels record how they bickered, were prideful and arrogant, one was a tax-collector willing to extort his own fellow-Jews, others are seen as rough and tumble fishermen, called “sons of thunder.” None of them were loving or accepting of anyone not Jewish. None of them recognized the nature of Jesus’ mission was to bring salvation, not to establish an earthly kingdom.
So, on the night before His death, Jesus lovingly said to them: [John 14:11-15]
Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, Truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in my name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
God’s clearest and most loving example of how He feels about humanity is seen in the sending of His Son Jesus to be our Redeemer and Deliverer. Jesus’ whole life is seen as giving loving grace and forgiveness, in one narrative after another. His disciples then, and His disciples today, are to see His life-pattern as the one to implement for themselves. Putting other’s need above our own, and doing it from the motivation of love, is the mandated quantitative measurement. Will any one person in this life ever love us like Jesus loved us? No, and it’s not even humanly possible.
The One who has absolute authority to determine if a person is loving, is the One who loved perfectly, and modeled that life of love for us. In a world with no recognized absolutes, I suggest no one can “absolutely” love in the manner that Jesus did. No one can keep His commandments 100% even for an instant momentary slice of this life. The goal is not perfection, the highest standard we’ll ever reach is excellence. Perfection is unattainable.
However, we have the same choice today the disciples did when Jesus spoke these words to them. He calls us today, to let the standard by which OTHERS examine our life to be:
Loving Jesus, by keeping His commandments, and loving others through His life-transforming power, all for the sole purpose of bringing great glory to God the Father, while we have life and breath on this earth.