Our ability to respond to the commandment of love outlined in the Johannine tradition is the realization of a gift received. Genuine interpersonal love is the imitation of the self-sacrificing love exercised by Christ. The capacity to be and to call another a “friend” is born when persons place themselves in the position of Christ, the position where he addresses others as friends. The occupation of Christ’s earthly position is made possible in baptism. The relationship of baptism to fraternal love is explored in a series of meditations on the epistle of John by Samuel Froehlich. Reflecting on the call to give oneself to another made in 1 John 3:16, Froehlich writes, “All believers who let themselves be baptized in Christ are then in the same position and situation as Christ was in when on earth.” This transformation is not without consequences. “But just as the Lord loved us not in word only nor in tongue, but in the deed itself and in truth, thus must we love also, not with beautiful, worthless words and a lying tongue, but in deed and in truth and thereby fulfill the vow that we promised Christ in baptism.” Thus, genuine fraternal love necessarily presupposes a life of faith.
Bonnici, John S. Person to Person: Friendship and Love in the Life and Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. New York: Alba House, 1999.