I think this one statement shows you are beginning to understand what I’m trying to say. In fact … I would strengthen this statement to declare (with Paul, and with Christ himself) that love is the only Rule. (Romans 13:8-10):
Owe no one anything except to love one another. For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet”; and any other commandment are summed up in this word: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And once that “Rule” reigns in your heart, you will no longer see it as a mere ‘rule’.
Or as I saw it well-put at Chrisitanity.com, “Works are a fruit, not a foundation of our standing before God.” They are important - as you correctly insist. Indeed, without them our faith is dead, since a tree is known by its fruit. But the source of such fruit is Christ, and our rootedness in Him.
Neither of those (love and obedience) should be pitted against the other. Yet, one of them has a primacy that leads to the other. There is a reason (I suggest) that Jesus gives that in the order he does: The true (and only) commandment there is: “Love me” - and what must follow from (the evidence of) any such love is the keeping of all his commandments. Love is presupposed as being present and operational there. In fact, apart from that love, there will be no “keeping of any commandments.” Brackish springs cannot produce fresh water or good fruit.
Let’s not pit James against Christ and Paul. Take a look at the whole verse, (and surrounding thoughts) to see what James is really saying here, beginning with verse 22 - and with some of my own emphasis added:
You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
So you can see that James is in no way dismissing the operating faith. He is instead giving us the way in which we can evaluate whether or not our faith is actually alive (operational).
You are correct that holiness is important - more than important - essential (God have mercy on us all!) The source of that holiness for us is Christ and Christ alone. He will make us holy, and our obedience to his one commandment of Love: love in our hearts for God and for neighbor, will provide the fruit of that holiness.