“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
We are learning from John 13:31-38 how we can impact our hate-filled world for Christ. Last time we saw that we must comprehend God’s love (John 13:31-33). The second way to impact our hate-filled world for Christ is to COMMIT TO LOVING OTHERS AS CHRIST LOVED US (John 13:34-35). In “a little while” after His death and resurrection, Jesus would be gone and ascend to His Father in heaven (John 13:33; cf. Acts 1:9). In view of His departure, Jesus’ eleven disciples may have asked themselves, “What will we do while He is gone?” Jesus now tells them.
“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 believing disciples would survive in His absence by keeping “a new commandment.” This commandment is “new” in kind. It implies freshness, the opposite of being worn out. The command to love others was not new. God instructed His people in the Old Testament to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 22:39). The measure of love is what is new. Instead of loving others “as yourself,” Jesus says we are to “love one another; as I have loved you.”
Under the old commandment the standard for loving others was one’s love for self. Under the new commandment, the standard for loving others was as Christ had loved them. Jesus had just demonstrated His love by washing the disciples’ dirty feet (John 13:1-20). He did what no one else wanted to do. He put aside His own needs to minister to them. His love took the initiative. The word “love” (agapaō) refers to a commitment to do what is best for another person. This kind of love is not a feeling, it is a decision.
Do not wait for the feeling to reach out to others. Do not wait for people to reach out to you first. Take the initiative and reach out to them. This means getting involved in one another’s lives. This won’t always be fun because we will encounter dirt in ourselves and others. When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He cleansed them by removing their dirt in a gracious way. He was not condemning or critical of them. He did not say, “Why did you walk in the mud or in the dirt?” He was understanding toward His followers. We also are to encourage one another to confess our sins (and we all have them – I John 1:8, 10) so we can experience God’s cleansing and healing forgiveness (James 5:16; I John 1:9). If we are to love one another as Christ loved us, we must be accepting, not accusing; compassionate, not condemning; helpful, not hateful; and loving, not loathing.
Christ’s love had brought Him from heaven’s glory to this fallen earth and made Him a servant. If we want to be leaders for God, our love for one another must lead us to be servants of one another. If we obey Jesus’ commandment to love one another, we will provide for one another what He had provided for others while He was on earth. As we love one another, Jesus’ presence will be manifested among us.
Each movement in Israel’s history had its peculiar identifying sign. “The sign that one was related to Abraham and the Abrahamic covenant was circumcision. The sign that one was related to Moses and the Mosaic Law was the observance of the Sabbath. The sign that one was related to John the Baptist and his message concerning the coming of the Messiah was water baptism. The sign that one was a Pharisee was that he wore a phylactery either on his forehead or upper arm. These external signs all indicated a relationship to a particular movement in Israel.” 1 Jesus now gives His disciples a new kind of sign.
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). This was not merely an external sign that could easily be imposed, but rather it was a sign that would require an inner transformation. This kind of love would be a sign to “all” people, saved and unsaved, that the Eleven were Jesus’ “disciples.” Jesus is not saying we must love one another to possess eternal life and go to heaven. We must love one another to be a disciple – a committed follower of Christ. The only condition for being a Christian is simple belief in Jesus for eternal life (John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; 11:25-26; 20:31; cf. Acts 16:31; Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:1, 13). Our love for one another will be the strongest evidence that we are Christ’s disciples. Jesus can be made real to a hate-filled world through our love for one another.
Notice that Jesus did NOT say that all will know we are His disciples by how much of the Bible we know. Knowing the Bible is essential, but knowledge without love means nothing (I Corinthians 13:1-3). An unloving Christian undermines the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because “God is love” (I John 4:8). How can unsaved people come to know God Who is love – both within the Trinity and to humanity – if His followers do not love one another!?! 2
Let’s face it, immature Christians can be just as hateful as non-Christians or worse. Why would a non-Christian want to be a part of a church where Christians are attacking one another and fighting with each other? Why would they want to go to a church where they are treated as “less than” by unloving church members. This is the exact opposite of what Jesus is teaching us here. One of the reasons unbelievers are not interested in going to church is because they do not want more stress and conflict with unloving Christians.
I am convinced that one of the major reasons the church is not impacting our hate-filled world very much is because the church has not applied what Jesus is teaching us here. We have not learned to love one another as Jesus has loved us. The disciples did not deserve for Jesus to wash their dirty feet. Nor do we deserve for Jesus to cleanse us of all our sins. Many of us know in our heads that Jesus loves us unconditionally, but we have not experienced His radical love for us in the secret places of our hearts and minds where we are deeply ashamed and broken. And until we allow Jesus’ love to heal those wounded areas of our lives we will not be able to love ourselves or others in the way Christ loves us.
Take some time to be alone with the Lord Jesus. Take some deep breaths and pay attention to your soul. What are you feeling right now? Talk to the Lord about it. Is there someone in your life that you are choosing not to love? You know who I am talking about. That person you avoid like the plague because everything about him or her repulses you? Did you ever think about why they repulse you? What about them triggers you? Do they remind you of someone who has deeply hurt you? Do they remind you of something about yourself that you dislike? Invite the Lord Jesus to speak to you about this. What would He say to you? You may be pleasantly surprised when You take time to listen to Him.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am continually amazed by Your wisdom that is revealed in the Bible. Thank You for revealing to me where You want to work in my life so I may become more loving like You. One of my weaknesses is to focus on the faults of others to avoid areas in my own life where You want me to grow. I think I do this because of fear. I am afraid of being exposed or not measuring up. Deep down inside of me I feel so unloved and unworthy. Yet You already know this and still You keep accepting me and loving me. Thank You for never giving up on me! Thank You for accepting me instead of condemning me where I struggle. Lord Jesus, I need You to show me how to love myself with Your love so I can love others as You have loved me. Our world is filled with broken and wounded people who desperately need Your radical love. Please help me to show Your love to all people, Christian or non-Christian. Thank You in advance for hearing my prayers. In Your loving name I pray. Amen.
1. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 435.
2. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (pg. 1800). B & H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.