The new commandment
‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another’ (John 13:34).
The Lord Jesus was soon to leave his disciples. Here was a new commandment for them to concentrate on during the difficult times that would follow his departure. And it’s still something for us to concentrate on during the difficult times before our Lord’s Second Coming. The Bible is highly relevant to the way we live our lives.
As in New Testament times, sin and self remain powerful today. They pressurise us from the world and from our own hearts. So this commandment is a timeless precept – the key to Christian living. As Jesus’ words jump off the page at us, do we stop and pay attention? What does it even mean, to love one another?
This verse emphasises one aspect of the many-splendoured thing called love: ‘As I have loved you’. That is, we must love as Christ loved. But how was that? Paul writes, ‘walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given himself for us’. And again, ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her’ (Ephesians 5:2, 25).
Put simply, the Lord Jesus loved the church sacrificially. He gave himself up and put the church first – emotionally, spiritually and physically. He still does!
And that isn’t because the church honours and glorifies his name from dawn ’til dusk. No, this church has all the fallen characteristics of its members – forgetfulness, indolence, carelessness – the things that make us selfish, neglectful of the needs of others and prayerful only when we want something for ourselves.
But how can we love one another if we are so lackadaisical? To love as Christ loved means to be selfless; not to be offended if we don’t receive the attention we would like; to be kind; to bear with each other even when our doctrines or personalities clash.
It means to act in love – to love in deed and in truth (1 John 3:16-18) – remembering that Christ loves us even when we show him little love in response. And as we love one another, and are loved in return, let us praise the Lord whose love binds us together – and reap the blessings of loving Christian fellowship.