This is a most important topic because when love is seen as the first principle of faith then religious disagreements can begin to fall by the wayside.
Faith deals with the “truth” of doctrine but love determines the actual quality of religious doctrine. We can argue with each other about truth and faith but we all can understand what love is. Everyone can agree to the precepts of the Golden Rule (which is also expressed in Matthew 7:12). I am not aware of any religion that claims otherwise than that all love, mercy and peace have their source in God.
According to scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, all true faith and doctrine must be expressions of God’s love. This is why Jesus said that all the Law and Prophets hang on two commandments – loving God and loving the neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). True faith and doctrine must therefore represent qualities of love. Faith (or religious truth) separated from sincere love is religion devoid of its essential life and purpose.
To put this religious topic into scientific language, love acts like force from which kinetic action is generated. The action itself displays the quality of the force that preceded it (force given form). Similarly, true faith should be the form, law and outcome that best express God’s love (divine kinetic action). Faith is predicated of love.
According to Swedenborg this dynamic order has been reversed by some religious traditions, which make faith more essential (especially to salvation) than love. As far as Christianity goes, he attributed this predicament to a misunderstanding of the biblical passage in Paul to the Romans (3:28), which reads:
“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”
Swedenborg maintained that the misunderstanding of this passage was that Paul was referring to the specific laws of Jewish custom—like circumcision and the law of the “red heifer”—not the Lord’s Commandments given to Moses. Swedenborg provides evidence that Paul did not throw out God’s Commandments (Law) with these passages:
“For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law.” (Romans 2:13)
“God in the day of wrath and of just judgment will render to every man according to his works.” (Romans 2:5)
“Love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Charity worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore charity is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8,9,10)
And finally these words from Paul, which stress the preeminence of love over faith:
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
When one’s doctrine of faith strays from real love, religion goes in negative directions. True religion wants us to be good, not prove who is right!