Read John 13. Take note of verse 34 and 35.
Jesus gives a “new command”. This new command takes its point of departure from the Mosaic commands to love the Lord with all one’s strength and faculties and to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:28-33).
The newness of this command is not found in the command to love each other. Jesus even taught us, as Christians, to love those who hate us for the Gospel’s sake (Matthew 5:43-48). So loving each other is just part of what is involved in being in community.
The newness of this command is found in that we are to love each other “just as I have loved you”, Jesus said.
In other words, our love for each other is to go beyond our normal concern for another human being and their good all the way to imitating Jesus’ love for his disciples.
What bothers me about this passage is the two little words “just as”. If Jesus could have just left that out!
The meaning of those two words is that my standard of love has to transcend the cheapening of the word “love” by my culture (example: Jolly “loves” hamburgers) and ascend to the standard of love emanating from the Trinity between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
“Just as” implies that I must love you the way Jesus loves us. That means I must love even to the point of laying down my life for another brother or sister in the faith, even if that person does not like me and is critical of me (we all have our own set of haters).
Here is where that rubs me the wrong way. I must love the one that does not like me and even be willing to die for them. The one who does not like me must be willing to die for me.
My love has to be like Jesus’ love.
How do we show each other this kind of love?
1. We must have tasted this kind of love ourselves from God.
If we have a firm grasp on Romans 3:21-26 we know this kind of love. The kind of love that takes my sin and gives me righteousness in it’s place.
While I was still at war with God, Jesus died for me, the ungodly. Once I’ve tasted love like that, I know what to give away and how. If I’ve never tasted love like that I have no clue how to love another right.
2. We need to have been transformed by the Gospel.
The only way we can love like this is for our cold and dead heart of stone to be removed and replaced with a lively and vibrant heart of flesh as promised in the work of the New Covenant (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
The fact is that dead hearts can’t love like this. That is why only Christians, who truly belong to Jesus, can love like this, and that is why people will know we are his.
3. We must be in community with each other.
We can’t be estranged from the church and love each other. We can only love the “other” if we are in community with the other. Make sure you are with others so that you can practice Jesus’ kind of love.
4. We must not miss the command to love in favor of something we feel to be more important.
Notice vers 36. Peter was hung up on Jesus statement in verse 33 about where Peter could not go. Jesus had just stated that he was going to a place they could not come and Peter missed the “new commandment”.
That is so easy to do. It’s easy to miss the vital for what suits my fancy. That is selfish. Peter missed the most important statement because he was fixed on something Jesus said that prohibited Peter’s sense of being “in”.
It’s funny, but I do that. I read the Bible looking for what suits me and not looking to see Jesus more clearly. By doing this I miss what is vital for what suits my fancy and end up finding I needed the vital and would have prefered the vital.
Finally, Jesus says that this is how all people will know that we are his disciples. How is that? People know we are his by recognizing that we love like Jesus. In other words, when we imitate Jesus’ work on the cross in our love for each other, people will see our willingness to die for each other and recognize Jesus’ willingness to die for his people.
Let us love one another and show the world we are his!
Who, in the family of the church, are you having trouble loving?
Is your version of love what you want love to be or what Jesus says it is by his willingness to die for us?
How are you going to love your co-workers?
Again, let us love one another!