The love commands found in scripture are universally accepted ideals of Christianity. For all the bitterness towards Levitical passages, I’ve never heard atheists or those of other faiths criticize the “love your neighbor” passages or condemn Christianity based on the Sermon on the Mount. Not that this couldn’t happen, I just haven’t heard it. But these aren’t simply “good advice” passages, they don’t tell people “It’s nice to be nice, so be nice.” The Beatitudes take good advice, ratchet up the expectation setting to perfection, and make God the standard. This turbocharged vision of love is annoyingly unreachable for those not God. If the driver of a Yugo (45 horsepower with a top speed of 70mph) was expected, and in fact commanded by God, to drive according to the speed and standards of a Bugatti Veyron (1,001 horsepower with a top speed of over 250mph), everyone would consider it ridiculous, ignorant, and unfair. We would think God insane for thinking this was possible. The only way a Yugo can do anything remotely like a Veyron is if it’s strapped to the Veyron’s back. In a sense, this is exactly what God expected people to realize.
The standards are simple and the expectations great. Throughout the New Testament God commands, “Love like only I can love.” For some insane reason we find ourselves saying, “Okay, lets do that.” Yet, we are surprised when we fail? We see God giving commands to be like Him and we think it’s about performing the behaviors right. Our minds simplify these passages down to “expected behavior”, and we completely miss the purpose of God’s call. When we reduce Christianity to a template of behaviors we find a stagnant and spiritually repressive religion. Not repressive in the headscarves and female circumcision sense, though it can find its way here, but in the “I failed again, I suck at this” sort of way. If you want a child to fail, fall into depression, and emotionally shrivel up, give him or her an impossible tasks and let them judge themselves for failing.
God’s command to live and love according to His standard, and the example set in Jesus, is not intended to call attention to our behavior and inability, but to hone our attention on Him. Sure, we see our failures when held in contrast with the beauty and perfection of God, but when this happens we are meant to look at God rather than dwell on self.