It’s fairly easy to love the abstract, invisible Jesus. He never gets in the way; He never tells us what to do; and He’s there when we need Him. Of course, this is the Jesus of our imagination, not the Jesus that reveals Himself in the Bible.
Now the real Jesus expects considerably more. He calls us to things like sacrifice, suffering and self-denial. He places us in His Body; a Body of real people with names and personalities and He insists that we love them, and forgive them, and put up with them, and honor them, etc. Moreover, Jesus says that there are two primary ways that people will know that we love Him. First, if we love Him we keep His commandments” (John 14:14), and His commandments are not burdensome to us (1 John 5:3). All of His commandments are concerned with loving God and loving our neighbors. Second, we love Him when we love one another (John 13:35). The invisible realities of the heart are always seen: “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).
The Bible gives us some powerful metaphors that teach us how we’re to express our love for Jesus. The first one is seen how we conduct ourselves as members in the household of God (Eph. 2:19; 1 Tim. 3:15). This is not the invisible church, but the church where you’re a member; the place where people have names and faces; even the ones that are hard to love. We love Jesus when we love His Body. The second metaphor is similar, in that we are to love the bride of Christ, (which is the Church). Now she still has spots and blemishes, but Jesus is at work removing those and is busy beautifying His bride (Eph. 5:25-27). A third picture of our love for Jesus is seen in how we treat His brethren. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matt. 25:40).
All the expressions of love (i.e., sacrifice), that are shown toward those in the church are the true expression of love for Jesus; anything less is less. In other words, if we don’t love the church (i.e., the Body, the bride, the household), then we don’t really love Jesus at all.