1.) Jesus gives a new command: Love one another
2.) It’s not going to be easy
3.) It’s not going to make us popular
4.) It’s a test of true belief
1.) A New Commandment I give to you, that you love one another…
This phrase doesn’t appear until this point in Scripture, at least not in these very words. It truly is a “new command” in its particular wording. However, the command to love your neighbor as yourself has been taught since the time of Moses.
So why is this a new command? Jesus wants his followers to live out the true God, the true gospel, before a watching world. He wants unity among believers. He wants his disciples to be identified by their love for Him and their love for others vs 35.
Jesus has announced his imminent departure from them, and told the disciples they cannot come with him. Now he begins to teach them what he expects of them while he is away.
In Matthew, Jesus preaches in the Sermon on the Mount to “love your enemies.” Here in John, Jesus is focused more on loving within the body of believers. It doesn’t mean that the gospel of John lets us off the hook any easier that Matthew. John still teaches us to love those outside the body. D.A Carson, in his commentary on the book of John says, “It is not so much that Christians are to love the world less, as that they are to love one another more. Better put, their love for each other ought to be a reflection of their new status and experience as the children of God, reflecting the mutual love of the Father and the Son and imitating the love that has been shown them.”
Jesus has been modeling attitude this all along in his earthly ministry. He has been loving and serving others in dramatic ways. We saw an example just verses earlier in the chapter. Jesus was showing love to his disciples and sacrificially performing a stunning act of service to his them by washing their feet. And he will soon perform the greatest act of love and servitude by dying on the Cross for our sins.
This brings us to our second point.
2.) It’s not going to be easy
At first glance, we might think that this new command is pretty great. There will be no more need for sacrifices. There will be no more need for the old law. Jesus has come to fulfill the law. And now his followers are given a command to love one other. A simple command, right? Or rather not so simple at all. Is it possible that this new command could be more difficult than all of the old commandments?
To quote D.A. Carson again, “The new command is simple enough for a toddler to memorize and appreciate, profound enough that the most mature believers are repeatedly embarrassed at how poorly they comprehend it and put it into practice: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another…the more we recognize the depth of our own sin, the more we recognize the love of the Savior; the more we appreciate the love of the Savior, the higher his standard appears; the higher his standard appears, the more we recognize in our selfishness, our innate self-centeredness, the depth of our own sin.” It might sound easier than the sacrificial system and the many laws of the OT, but in reality it is much, much harder and much more convicting.
Romans 12:9-10 “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor…vs 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
Being part of the church is a complex task. Being together in a church building, part of a church congregation, and brothers and sisters in the family of God brings about a beautiful and unique sense of intimacy. It makes sense why the church is referred to as a family. We have a special bond, and we care for one another out of a shared purpose and a common love. But intimacy comes with its own set of temptations. I think in many ways it is this intimacy among sinners saved by grace that makes church a breeding ground for gossip and meddling. What does Romans 12 say? Outdo each other in getting in other people’s business? No, “outdo one another in showing honor”. And don’t fake love for one another. Don’t respond to someone’s needs out of obligation. Love genuinely. Show hospitality. Be family! Not the dysfunctional kind, but the “Leave it to Beaver” kind, or whatever your ideal, perfect family is. There is almost this picture in these verses of a competition to be the most loving.
This is part of what makes it so hard. As I said, the church is a bunch of sinners saved by grace. Sometimes sinners are awfully unlovable. As with any group of people thrown together, there will be some that we just don’t hit it off with. The Bible doesn’t excuse us from loving those that drive us nuts. Or those that are just truly unlikeable. Or those who ask too much of us. It just tell us to love them. To show them honor. To give sacrificially to them. You know that family member that your family would kind of prefer not to claim? Yep, we’re supposed to love that one too. And not just love them, but love them sacrificially, as a servant, genuinely, persistently. No doubt about it. This is not an easy command Jesus gives.
Why is this so important?
Loving one another brings glory to God through Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 4:7-11 “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
When we work together, take care of each other, and love one another we function like a well oiled machine, and this brings glory and honor to Jesus Christ. What could bring more fame to God that a bunch of sinners working together and becoming this beautiful thing called the Church?
Because by loving others we love God and prove our love and belief in him.
1 John 4:7-12 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 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. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…vs 19 We love because he first loved us…vs 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
We are the hands and feet of God. He has chosen to use us to reach the world.
John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” How has Jesus loved us? What does that mean for how we love one another?
13-17 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
It invalidates our message if we don’t practice what we preach. How can we preach Jesus’ love without showing Jesus love?
What does it mean to love one another?
As we saw earlier, Jesus models it in the first part of this chapter. 13:3-11
It means being a servant.
It means humility.
It means self-sacrificing.
It means loving even those who do not love you back. Jesus washed Judas’ feet, knowing full well that Judas was going to lead the way in sending Jesus to the cross.
3.) It’s not going to make us popular.
Passages of suffering come after commands to love one another:
John 15 – The world will hate you
Romans 12:14 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
1 Peter 4 – “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice”
1 John 3:13 “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
4.) It’s a test of true obedience
Love for God is both tied to and verified by love for one another. John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
1 John 3:16 “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s good and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth.”
This should both challenge us and encourage us.
Challenge us because we’ve just said that it is not easy to love others, and that it is not going to make us popular. Have you seen the bumper sticker “Jesus Christ, save us from your followers”? Obviously plenty of Christians are not doing a great job of loving others. I am not just referring to those who bomb abortion clinics in the name of Jesus, or those who in the midst of tragedy publically proclaim that the tragedy was God’s judgment on sinners, or those any other extreme example. I am talking about day to day loving others. Loving others in the body of Christ and loving those outside the body of Christ.
How can we expect to proclaim Jesus’ message of love and reconciliation if we don’t look like we are loving and being reconciled?
1 John 3:10-11 “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.’
Whoa. There’s no getting around the truth in this verse. If we don’t love our brothers and sisters, we are children of the devil. I’m thinking I need to remember this the next time I don’t feel like going out of my way for someone, or I decide that I don’t like someone so I will just avoid them.
If we are not regularly practicing sacrificial, servant love to those in our midst, we better examine our hearts to see if we truly believe. That’s how serious this is. You cannot believe in Jesus Christ, you cannot claim to love and follow him, and not love others.
The fact that loving others is a test of true obedience should also encourage us.
As we mature in Christ, we come to look and act more like him. It just happens. Partly, that is due to our doing the difficult things and stepping out in obedience. And partly it happens as we love him more, know more about him, and KNOW him more deeply. If loving others is a test of obedience, then we can be sure that God will give us what we need to do it. He will never leave us to our own strength.
It means that though it might be hard to love others sometimes, it will bring true, deep joy. The joy of the Lord, the joy that comes from knowing that we are walking in faith and stepping out in obedience. The truest sense of joy and peace that can come only from God.
So we should not be daunted by this command, though it is in some ways daunting. Rather, we should respond with courage and faith, leaning on our Savior to equip us and lead us in obeying Him
Take a moment to respond to this commandment. Pray and reflect on what step of obedience God is calling you to this morning. Jot down one person or one thing that you can love one another this week. Let the Lord challenge you. Then put this paper somewhere where you will see it regularly and be reminded to do it, and then DO it this week.
1 Peter 1:22 “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart”