Jesus asks this of Peter and gives him this command three times. Notice the absence of the word “then” in Jesus’ reply: “Feed my sheep.” This is phenomenally different from saying “if you love my, then feed my sheep.” I would argue that this is what we call a biconditional statement. That is a ↔ b. Let a be loving Jesus, and let b be feeding his sheep (i.e. loving other people).
If you love Jesus, then you love other people. If you love other people, then you love Jesus.
There are several reasons I say this. First of all, the absence of an “if-then” statement in Jesus’ question and command implies some sort of equivalence rather than an implication. Second, when asked for the greatest commandment, Jesus answered with two commandments: to love God and to love your neighbor. Third, Jesus routinely praises the faith of those who do not believe in the Jewish God, such as the Good Samaritan and the Roman Centurion, among others.
All of this makes sense of the inclusivist position that people of all beliefs may go to heaven. That is, it seems very bizarre for God to hold people accountable for whether or not they assent to a specific set of cultural practices and beliefs known as Christianity. When you ask yourself, “What is the highest good?” does “having all the right beliefs” come to mind, or does “loving God and others” take precedence?
It is not as though inclusivists believe that Jesus lied when he said he was the only way to Heaven; rather, it is our belief in a cosmic Christ, who transcends all belief systems and is that through which all goodness takes shape, which tells us that we are loving Christ when we love other people.
It is this logic of love which lets the inclusivist set aside his or her differences with the Hindu, Muslim, or atheist in pursuit of goodness and truth. It allows us to treat them as people instead of as evangelism projects. We don’t get teary-eyed thinking about our non-Christian friends or relatives on their death beds; rather, we know that if God exists that he/she/it is a fair God who will treat all people justly. We encourage our friends to pursue the truth, and we support them in their decisions even if they deviate from our beliefs, even against others of our own faith who might try to shun or exclude.
All this is because we realize that to love others is to love Jesus. This is the “gospel,” the truly good news. Anything else is impotent by comparison.