“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
- You can listen to this sermon here.
If we were writing an outline of “love commands” the New Command to “Love one another” would display as a subpoint to “The Second Command” to “Love your neighbour as yourself“. Since Jesus had already instructed his disciples to love those around them, even their enemies, why did he need to specifically tell them to “love each other“? I can think of several reasons, you may think of more… or you may disagree with mine? 🙂
First, toward the end of Matthew’s Gospel (chaps 18 & 20) we find the apostles competing for honors in Jesus’ kingdom, asking who will be the greatest. Back in John’s Gospel (13:21-30) we see that Judas has just left the Last Supper to betray Jesus. In v38 of this chapter Jesus predicts that Peter himself will deny Jesus. Then in chapter 14 Jesus predicts his departure. Jesus is leaving. He’s leaving a competitive group of guys who’ve just been betrayed by Judas, and who themselves have deserted Jesus at his death. These are the guys who’ll continue the mission of the Kingdom of God. In order to get through the tough times ahead, they’re going to need to “love each other”, just as we still need to.
Second, Jesus tells us that it’s by our mutual love that outsiders will recognise our commitment to God. He doesn’t say this when he tells us to “love our enemies“, although that’s sure to raise eyebrows. Surprisingly, people don’t see God as much when we serve our communities as they do in the way that we love each other. Perhaps we don’t recognise this point as much because we don’t love each other as strongly. Consider the example of the first church who sold their possessions to meet the needs of the poor among them. (Acts 4:32-35) What would prompt you to sell something to give to a needy brother or sister? How severe would their need have to be?
Third, Our love for each other reflects God’s love toward us. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” The way we treat each other reflects the way Christ has treated us. That’s a pretty huge responsibility. With the world looking at us, the church, we have the job of modeling God’s love for His people: for all people. The more we mature in Christ, the more we understand the way he loves us, the better job we should do of loving those around us. Our love for others derives from God. Our love from God expresses itself to others.
- If you had to choose a 3rd “love command” do you have another preference? Why?
- Why do you think Jesus had to be more specific than just “love your neighbour”?
- It’s easy to say “love your spiritual family as Christ loved you”, but how do you express God’s love for you in relationships with others?