A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
I’m not sure why, but the second verse was rolling around in my head all weekend and it prompted me to read the passage where it’s found and then some.
These words found in the Gospel of John are part of the final instructions Jesus gave to his disciples before he was arrested and crucified. With his public ministry completed, Jesus spent the last hours before his arrest with them.
I wondered about the new part, because this is not a new command. ‘Love your neighbor’ was part of the Mosaic Law from the beginning. Matthew Henry said in his commentary, “it is like an old book in a new edition corrected and enlarged. This commandment had been so corrupted by the traditions of the Jewish church that when Christ revived it, and set it in a true light, it might well be called a new commandment. Laws of revenge and retaliation were so much in vogue, and self-love had so much the ascendant, that the law of brotherly love was forgotten as obsolete and out of date; so that as it came from Christ new, it was new to the people.”
The commandment was new in experience. For the first time, the people had a perfect example of love in human flesh and they were about to see it in an even more powerful way.
So, love is how everyone will know we follow Jesus. It’s our thing….our trademark.
Love. That’s how everyone will know. It’s not the church we attend. It’s not our denomination, education, or accumulation. Our traditions, rituals, network, or political views. It’s not our Facebook posts, YouTube channels or Twitter feed.
It’s our love for one another. And it’s not just the kind that says the right words.
John wrote in his first epistle: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.’ 1 John 3:18
Then I remember what it says in Paul’s famous love passage:
“If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” 1 Corinthians 13 MSG
Without love, we are nothing. We are ambassadors of Jesus, commanded to love like he did.
It would be easier to finish this post using the collective “we” because it keeps me from having to look closely at my own life and asking myself, “do people know I follow Jesus by the way I love others?”
But I can’t dodge the question and I can’t compare myself to others. I’m commanded to love as he has loved me and honestly, I mess it up a lot of the time. Most of the time. On my own it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
He never asks us to do something without giving us what we need to do it. And what He has given us is Himself.
Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”
Without love, I am nothing.
Father, thank you for Your love and grace. Show me how to love others like You love me. Deliver me from the love of my own comfort and make me willing to serve others. Make me more and more desperate for You and keep me in the light of Your love. Show me Your ways and align my heart with Yours, so I see others the way you see them. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a steadfast spirit within me. I love You.
Photo courtesy of Joanna Schley