We all have ‘others’ in our lives – friends, family. Many readers belong to a church family. Most of the time we take these ‘others’ for granted. They are part of our scenery, part of the backdrop of our lives. They’re always there. We depend on that to help us feel comfortable in the world. The sun rises and sets. The week marches from Sunday to Saturday.
For followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is more to it than that. We find ourselves connected with others. We share each other’s lives. We bear one another’s burdens. We walk with each other through the dark times. We reach out to each other. We get involved. We care when another is hurting. We sit with the person who is in need. We listen (and make tea). We pray. These are a part of what can be called ‘one-anothering’.
In John 15, Jesus was having the last supper with his disciples. After the washing of their feet, the Saviour gave his new law. Immediately after he gave that law, he said, ‘Greater love hath no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.’ In a very dramatic manner, Jesus laid down his life for his friends.
Now, we might not be called to literally ‘die’ for our friends. But we may be called to ‘lay down’ our busy-ness, our own agendas for a while. We may be called to give up some moments of our time in order to ‘be with’ a fellow creature. This is what ‘one-anothering’ means. To ‘give up’ self in order to bear one another’s burdens.
In ‘one-anothering’, we see principally that we are to love one another. John 13:34-35: ‘A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.’
Why then is it a new commandment? Has Jesus inaugurated a completely new kind of love for others? The answer is given to us in the word that Jesus uses. If he had meant something brand new, he would have used the word neos – new. But he did not: he used kainos,which means fresh – like a new day, a refreshing dawn in all its beauty.
Love for God and for one’s neighbour is a summary of God’s law; we find that in Mark 12:29-31. So where is the freshness in this new commandment issued by the Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus requires his disciples to love one another as he had loved them!
His way of loving is different. His example is constant. He tells us not to love once, but to go on loving. It is a self-sacrificing love. It is a love that puts one’s own interests to one side in order to love another. It is a love that shelves hurts and offences. It is a love that ignores humiliation – and loves in spite of it.
Jesus’s whole life was a humiliating experience for him, from his conception through to his death on the cross to die for his people. He could have come with a begrudging obedience to his Father, yet that was furthest from his mind as he loved us his people. He willingly gave himself for us, yielding himself on the cross; and then quite rightly expects us to love like him. This is to be our pattern, our attitude, and our commitment of relationship to one another.
Obedience to this commandment is absolutely vital for the spiritual welfare of all disciples – all of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Love one another!
Hard, isn’t it? If we say it is easy, then we do not know our own souls! But if we think about ‘freshness’ in relation to this vital commandment, then, when we fail (and we will), after forgiveness we will find that each task or challenge before us is a new, fresh opportunity to love one another.