33 Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer….34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
We often forget the situation surrounding the words “Love each other” spoken by Jesus and the significance of what was going on when He uttered them. These words were spoken on the night that Jesus was betrayed when He knew that the time of His death was drawing near. If you knew that your time was drawing short what would you say, what would be important to you? Every word that Jesus uttered that night was weighty and important filled with purpose and direction. Jesus revealed that these words were not just a command but:
- A New Command
Although Jesus had taught the Twelve much on the subject of love, He had never specifically commanded them to love one another prior to this occasion. He had shared with them the importance of loving God, their neighbors and even instructed them to love their enemies. You could argue that by implication the command to love their neighbors also included one another. Yet Jesus didn’t imply He gave the explicit command to love one another for the first time here at the end of His life. Why did He have to command them and us to love each other, why wouldn’t an implication suffice? When Jesus gave His disciples this new command He recognized and revealed an innate flaw that resides within the lives of all of His followers, including us. That without specifically commanding His disciples to love one another, there existed the very real possibility that this essential, nurturing activity would be neglected. There is something about us that makes us much more apt to deal with love as a noun or an abstract concept rather than as a verb. We seem to prefer talking about love rather than demonstrating it. Many of us can name and even give a brief definition for each of the three primary Greek words that are translated as the English word love. Others can quote the book and chapter in the Bible that contains Paul’s description of love. This kind of knowledge is useful and has its place but the problem is that we do not comprehend what love does by what it is; rather we recognize what love is by what it does.
Love in our culture is usually described and thought of as a feeling yet Jesus reminds us that in reality it is a choice integrated with action. Jesus first washed the disciples’ feet and then He gave them a new command “Love each other, just as I have loved you.” Before Jesus commanded the disciples to love one another He first expressed love to them as a servant, one who would be willing to see themselves as less than others. Active love is a choice interwoven with humility that causes us to kneel to the needs of others before our own. Love is getting down to the foot level in others’ lives and serving them. Our love should always involve choice and action so it can mirror God’s love. How well do you display your love for God in the choices you make and the actions you take? Jesus says we are to love one another, as He loved us, who did he love? Everyone! Who should we love? Everyone! To know about love in our heads takes only understanding, but to know love in our hearts requires practice. So are you going to talk about His command to love one another or are you going to practice it?
- A Necessary Command
The occasion for this gathering between Jesus and His disciples was to celebrate the Passover when God delivered His people. This was the night that Christ was betrayed and Luke’s Gospel reminds us that when Jesus needed His friends the most He couldn’t count on their comfort. Why, because that night they were too concerned about themselves. They were wrapped up in arguing over who would be the greatest in Christ’s kingdom and there was not much love being demonstrated toward one another (Luke 22:23-24).
They may have spent the last three and a half years together in close contact with Christ and one another even become a family but they still needed to be commanded to love each other. Like the disciples we also have a tendency to focus our attention on matters that cause division and disputes. If we are honest some of the hardest people to love are other Christians and unlike love it takes no effort at all to find fault in them. Love on the other hand is achieved through effort, its messy and costly; it requires sacrifice and can leave us defenseless. Although loving one another is not the easy thing to do, it is the necessary thing to do because Christ’s kingdom is a kingdom of love. We are commanded to love one another because it is fundamental to our relationship to God. Trying to serve God without love is like trying to drive a car without wheels. Love is where the rubber meets the road and loving one another must be the earmark of our lives as we serve in the kingdom of God. “Love one another” is a necessary command because love must be seen and experienced. But Jesus did not simply say, “Love one another.” Jesus was very specific about the kind of love his disciples were to share, He said “Just as I have loved you.” What if we as Christians would love each other the way Jesus showed his love, what if we would obey Him and just love each other. What if His unmistakable love was revealed to a watching world, a love that they desperately need and cannot comprehend? How will you respond to His new and necessary command to love today?