John 13:34–35 – “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 all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave His disciples this commandment, love one another. This wasn’t a suggestion or a call based on how they felt but a command, something to be obeyed not delayed. A distinguishing feature of Christians should be their love for one another. Jesus wants His followers to be bound not primarily by service, command, family, nationality, pledge, race, interest, or anything else, but by love. In giving this command, Jesus did something the world had never seen before, He created a group identified by one thing: love. There are many groups in the world today, and they identify themselves by skin color, shared interests, by alma mater, even those who abstain from meat. In truth the ways people categorize themselves are endless. But the church is unique because for the first and only time in history, Jesus created a group whose identifying factor is love. Skin color or native language doesn’t matter only our love for each other. When we try to define ourselves by anything other than love we end up dividing ourselves. Instead of coming together we create clicks. Jesus calls us to love because He wants His followers to care for each other on the deepest levels. Our love for one another flows out of our love for God, which is a result of God’s love for us as 1 John 4:19 tells us, “We love because he first loved us.” John, one of Jesus’ disciples, reminds us of this truth in 1 John 4:10–11, 21, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. … And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” So why is the church trying to define itself by something other than love? And when we do are we not caving and conforming to the culture around us that is defining itself by everything other than love? When the Holy Spirit appeared at Pentecost, people were gathered from all over the world. Acts 2:9-11 reminds us that there were, “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” These were people from other nations of different races with varied interests and backgrounds. Yet according to Acts 2:44-45, once they were bound in Christ, they began serving each other, pooling their resources, and giving to those in need, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” This was love in action. So why when we have both Christ’s clear command as well as a practical working model do we decide to define ourselves by other things? In truth I think it’s because we all desperately want to belong, but we listen to the call of the culture instead of Christ. So, we cave to the culture because we feel like we somehow have more in common based on our groups than we do in Christ. We define ourselves by singleness, or college age, young marrieds, empty nesters, or even widows. As a result, we segregate the church. Our cultural segregation is just a reflection of our church segregation. The question is are we going to be defined by the call of culture or the command of Christ? Not only did Jesus give us the command to love each other he also gave us the model, “Love one another just as I have loved you.” Our love should reflect Christ not the culture. So how does Jesus love us? First He loves unconditionally as Romans 5:8 reminds us, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Love choses to care unconditionally, which is not only radical but counter cultural. We will always put conditions on love until we truly experience Christ and His unconditional love. Are you limited love with your conditions or are you caring for others with Christs unconditional love? Not only is His love unconditional but according to 2 Corinthians 5:21 its also sacrificial, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Caring is going to cost you. The problem is we want an easy love that doesn’t cost, but that’s a cheap love not a Christlike love. Do you have a sacrificial or selfish love? Christ’s love also focuses on forgiveness, just as Ephesians 4:32 calls us to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Forgiveness focuses on letting go not trying to make people pay for past sins. Right now, many of you may be asking but how in our present political climate do we live out this love? We can only do it as we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Our choice to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and Jesus’ instruction in the Word of God gives us the ability to follow His example. Several years ago, I organized 33 men from our church to drive from Nebraska to New Orleans to help rebuild after the devastation on Katrina. I will n ever forget the statement one of the residents made to me when we pulled up to fix their home, “I knew there was a God when you white boys showed up to fix my house” No one of any other race had stepped foot in our neighborhood for over 20 years. So why were we there, one word, LOVE. What is driving your decisions, is it race or is it grace, is it compassion or is it the culture? We are called to love each other, our neighbors, and according to Matthew 5:43-48, even our enemies. What does this sort of love look like, 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 gives us a detailed description: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” Loving one another the way Christ loved us is only possible with the supernatural power of God. Jesus not only gives us the command to love one another, He also gives us the power to do it. What are you going to be defined by, your political persuasions or Christ’s love? Is your identity wrapped up in your nationality, your sex, your education, your race or in your Redeemer? I am a child of God who chooses to live out Christ’s love in a broken world. I want the legacy that I leave to be one of love.