David Virts

Scripture Text: John 13:34-35 Title: New Command?

Question of the Day: How is Jesus’ command to “love one another” a new command?

Jesus made many statements that impacted the disciples, and this one has impacted every generation since the church began. But how is this a new command? I thought in the Old Testament that people were told to love your fellow man in God’s directive to man, “love your neighbor”, and that it became the second great command to believers everywhere. Did Jesus add to that command? Or did He amplify it for us today? Or is this a totally new command for us in the church age?

Here is today’s text: “Here is a new command that I leave with you: learn to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. This is the one distinguishing characteristic of all of My disciples: that is, when you demonstrate love for each other.’” In this passage Jesus was speaking only to the eleven remaining disciples after Judas had left. So He was initially speaking to them, but let’s look at each of the ways this command was expressed.

One thing we know from Scripture: when God gives a command, it is never rescinded. His commands are eternal and unchanging. In the command “love your neighbor as yourself” the word neighbor suggests the person that is next to you, and God expects us to demonstrate good Christian love to everyone around us. That may be hard at times, and it will always be tested by those around us who aren’t that easy to love. This command was aimed at the whole nation of Israel, and it still fully applies today. But in this command from our Lord, He tells us a lot about the makeup of the New Testament church. Much of the church has been scattered all over the world and many for centuries have been maligned and persecuted and martyred for their faith.

With this in mind, we can easily see how the church could be greatly diminished in size and scope if believers didn’t have a “super glue” to hold them together, so it was given to us in the form of a command. But Jesus had watched this small band of disciples scraping among each other and jockeying for a prominent position in the upcoming kingdom of God. So He gave them a command which would hold this small group of believers together. First He said, “You must love one another”. He now was speaking of not only a love for one’s neighbor or one’s family member, but now it was narrowed to focus on fellow believers. This speaks of the special bond that believers face as “members of the body of Christ”, and with the intense pressure from without, if they didn’t have that love for each other, the body would never be able to function.

But Jesus went on and amplified His command: “…as I have loved you, you are to love one another”, and it is in this kind of close knit love that the world will have as a testimony to the fact that these believers are really followers of their Lord. Jesus demonstrated that love to His disciples in the next few hours after the command was given by laying down His life for them, so His words take on significant impact. Jesus’ words were backed up by His actions—and so should ours. We must learn to lay down our lives—our ambitions, our desires, our preferences, our way of wanting to do things—and in short our selfish desires and our selfishness for others, and love them as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. Anything less just doesn’t cut it. This command to “love one another” would now become the distinguishing factor, the hallmark distinctive of Christians.

Prayer: Lord, Your example of supreme sacrifice is what we need to put into practice as Your followers as we learn to love others with whom we will spend eternity. You only know that because our selfish heart we draw back from demonstrating to our fellow Christians the kind of love that You demonstrated for us. You loved Your disciples and stayed with an unruly bunch of misfits until they became apostles and leaders in the church as it grew from infancy. Teach us to model that kind of deep passionate love. Amen!