By Mark and Kandy Persall
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). This commandment is not new to us now and wasn’t new to Jesus’ disciples then. When asked to choose the greatest commandment (Matt 22:37-39), Jesus quoted this verse in Deuteronomy, then added, love your neighbor as yourself.
Yet, just before His death, Jesus encouraged His disciples to love in a new way. “A new commandment, I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). Even as His heart sensed the impending ramification of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus addresses these brawny men, seasoned with sea salt and overcooked with desert heat, as little children. The term, connoting their innocence, revealed His tender heart toward these men who would soon experience His physical absence.
“Love one another.” Of all He could have explained regarding His pending betrayal, trial, and crucifixion, He chooses these as his parting words. Repeating Himself three times, He desires they contemplate them well during their anguish.
“Love one another.” Perhaps their understanding would deepen after His resurrection when He appeared to them. This was no mere “random acts of kindness” type of love but a sacrificial one. “As I have loved you,” He qualified.
Any child can grasp the meaning of the golden rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Adults may struggle with the implementation, but certainly, we understand the concept.
When Jesus told the Pharisees to love their neighbors as themselves, they comprehended His meaning. Maybe they resisted the idea of loving a lesser as an equal. Their stature as religious leaders afforded them the freedom to compose rules that excluded them from the application.
But, when the disciples heard this new qualifier to “love as I have loved you,” it would affect them for the remainder of their lives. A stranger, neighbor, or even an enemy, could be loved with a pretense of care. Anyone can demonstrate acts of love from self-righteousness or pity. The facade of the golden rule may not be love at all.
The new command forces the lover to engage in a relationship with the focus of his love. We enact this love in the same way that Christ loves us. Seeking to understand our “one another’s,” we must grapple with how they need to be loved.
“As I have loved you.”
What did that look like? Jesus walked with His disciples, overlooking their pettiness and calming their fears. He defended them, encouraged them, and cared for them as a shepherd. Just after washing their feet, He laid down His life.
So, as we define our “one another’s,” where do we find them? Who are yours? Not those who merely need your love but those with whom you give and receive love. Let’s struggle to add to our circle, then grapple with the example of how we will love.
The world isn’t interested in better evangelism methods or flashier worship presentations. They desire an example of loving one another. As followers of Jesus, let’s not overlook the depth of implication of these words. “All people will know you are My disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:25).