The New Commandment of Love
After Judas left on his mission of betrayal, Jesus spoke with the eleven disciples. Just before Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come in His place (John 14-16), Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). The summary of the law given in the Old Testament is to love the Lord with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. So, how is this exhortation in John 13 a new commandment?
First, it is new in the object of love: love one another. The focus of love here is more specific than your neighbor. It is directed toward fellow believers. While we are still to love all including the unsaved, there is a special and specific focus here on loving other believers.
Second, it is new in the standard of love: as I have loved you, that you love one another. The second greatest commandment is to love others as you love yourself. We all naturally love and care for ourselves. But here the standard is higher. We are to love one another as Jesus loves us. This, on our own, would be impossible, beyond mere human capability. But in John 14-16 Jesus explains the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers and fill them with His life, and therefore, His love. Only as we abide in Jesus can we love as He loves. When we abide in Him through dependence on His indwelling presence, He abides in us through imparting to us His very life. Then, and only then, but truly then, we may love one another as He loves us.
Third, it is new in the sign of discipleship: by this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. The evidence of discipleship to the world is love among the saints. The love of Jesus flowing though believers to the body of Christ is powerful. When God poured out His Spirit on the Moravians in 1727, they were transformed from a community of bickering to a community of love. John Wesley visited them in their revived condition and the big impression he was left with was their love for each other.
While it is true that sometimes it is impossible to live peaceably with all men due to toxic and harmful relationships (Rom. 12:18), we are to live to love, not separate. Love displays Jesus because the fruit of the Spirit of Jesus is love.
How well are we doing? Are we accessing Jesus? Only by accessing Jesus through faith is this new commandment possible.
John Van Gelderen