A New Commandment
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
About a dozen or so of us from Riverside recently got back from the Sovereign Grace Ministries’ regional leadership conference in Orlando. The name of the conference was “Love One Another,” and the entire time focused on what it means to truly love as God calls us to. The opening message was from this passage, where Christ gives us a “new” commandment. And what is that new commandment? To love one another…? Almost. Rather, to love one another, “just as I have loved you.”
If you think about it, the command to love one another isn’t altogether new. In Leviticus 19:18, the LORD first tells us: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus quotes this passage earlier in his ministry and even says it’s the second greatest commandment. But here, in John 13, he’s given us a new commandment. Not simply to love one another as much as you already love yourself. Rather, to love one another “as I have loved you.” To love as Christ has loved us.
Christ has loved us with a selfless, self-sacrificing love. In fact, in this passage, he’s just finished washing his disciples dirty feet. The Creator of the universe stoops to wash the creatures feet. That’s an incredible display of love and service! But, as we know, Christ doesn’t stop there. He then serves us even more, by giving up his life as a ransom. The Author of Life dies. He humbles himself to the point of death on the cross. Why? Love. And now he calls us to love like this.
Friends, Jesus significantly raises the bar when he gives this new commandment. He’s calling us to a radical love. A love that knows no bounds. A love that seeks the good of other Christians, even if it means our loss. And he ties an incredible promise to this new commandment. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This new love will be the unmistakable proof to the world that we belong to Jesus. They will literally “know” we a Christ’s disciples. As the old hymn rightly put it: “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
This means that loving other Christians is essential to reaching the world for Christ. Said another way, our fellowship and our evangelism are inextricable tied together. There’s a powerful non-verbal witness that loving other Christians displays. That’s not to say we can simply love each other and forget about preaching Christ. No, we preach Christ. But we do so as we love the family of Christ. Keep in mind, Jesus doesn’t restrict this passage to loving Christians within our local church or preferred denomination. Rather, we’re called to love all true Christians in this way. Which also means that unity and love for the larger Body of Christ is not optional.
How are you doing with love? To love as you have been loved? If you find yourself lacking love, then pray and cry out to God for it. The Scripture says he pours out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). God’s love isn’t simply something we seek to observe and emulate. Rather, as those born of God, it’s now something that lives inside of us. An alien love has been planted inside of us. A flame that has been lit by God himself. Yes, flames can dwindle. But they can also be stoked and stirred. Let’s resolve to stir one another up to love. To love one another as we have been loved. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”