First of all, I am a wretched sinner and have neither the authority, nor the high moral ground to presume to preach or teach anybody anything. Yet this is how I see these things:
"Heady chemicals of love"... that could easily dismiss religious knowledge too, since both are experiences in the human psyche. Be careful what terms you throw around here.
If there is only subjective religious experience, and no objective religious truth (Creation, Incarnation, Resurrection) - Christianity is all a huge fraud, we have believed in vain and are the most miserable of all people.
I think ordinary human love can reflect something very spiritual and it can require real discipline to forgive people in a relationship.
Same goes for any relationship - spiritual ones included. You seem to agree that love needs some kind of discipline.
I'm really just an ordinary sinner with alot of challenges that are extraordinary. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love me.
If God loves me anyway, why bother with virtue at all? If he loves sinners best, "shan't we continue in sin, that grace may abound?"
I agree, but too often religion presents people with moral advice clothed in a false certainty. You can't make certain predictions based on generalizations. Just because a scientist sees only white swans, doesn't mean a black swan cannot exist. And when filtered through religious biases, its easy to self-confirm what evidence the devout will accept.
The black swans have been observed and dealt with in Christianity's long ascetic and canonical tradition. An individual outside this tradition may be spiritually short-sighted, so as not to see his own "sin" and foresee its ultimate consequences.
If this all sounds paradoxical, that I am deeply critical of "religion" and yet believe in Jesus Christ all the more, consider what sort of people conspired in his death. It is a mistake to think that this error somehow is exempt from Christians. Religion cannot exist for its own sake as a bunch of rules that merely serve to help us to be more religious, if God is indeed the Philanthropos, then religion must be the same. And the current world we live in is weary of "Thou Shalt Not", as William Blake put it in one poem, because it often kills the beauty and goodness in this world, and replaces it with an ethic based on fear and joylessness.
"There are three things I cannot take in: nondogmatic faith, nonecclesiological Christianity and nonascetic Christianity. These three - the church, dogma, and asceticism - constitute one single life for me." (Elder Sophrony Saharov of Essex)
This is the Orthodox deal - you either take it all in, or reject it.
Love is demanding. If you care at all about somebody, you cannot be indifferent about the bad choices he/she makes for his/her life and stand by watching how they make a mess of it. If you try to help them discern right from wrong (St. Augustine speaks of ordinata caritas
- ordered and disordered love), it doesn't necessarily mean that you are imposing your will on them, dictating what they should do, 'micro-managing their lives', being a tyrant. If that were the case, if all laws, rules and prescriptions were by their very nature dictatorial, then the Sermon of the Mount, which transcends and maximizes them all, would be the summit of tyrannical propaganda.
a "yoke of Christ", and it is far more light than the "freedom" of "I live how I choose & I decide what's best for me". The paradox is: "All things are lawful (permitted) unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any" (1 Cor. 6, 12). The Christian is not supposed to be bound by narrow-minded legalism, but his freedom in Christ should make him free from sin, not give him license to persevere in it.
The aim of Christian asceticism is killing evil passions, not people or their bodies.
Christ forgave the adulteress, but commanded her to sin no more.
Rules and regulations are always just the beginning, never an end in themselves:
"We are, therefore, about to found a school of the Lord's service, in which we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But even if, to correct vices or to preserve charity, sound reason dictateth anything that turneth out somewhat stringent, do not at once fly in dismay from the way of salvation, the beginning of which cannot but be narrow.
But as we advance in the religious life and faith, we shall run the way of God's commandments with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love; so that never departing from His guidance and persevering in His doctrine till death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ, and be found worthy to be coheirs with Him of His kingdom." (Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict)