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. John 13:34, 35
This new commandment that Jesus gives his closest friends near the end of His earthly ministry is so beautiful. He has communicated His heart and mind to them daily for three years, walked with each of them through life’s difficult situations. He has seen the dirt and grime of their all-too-human depravity at times. He has rejoiced when they have seen the truth of His glorious nature. He has washed them in His words. (John 15:3) He has called each one by name, loved each one to the end, faithfully keeping each in His hand, shepherding each one in His flock. And now His time has come, and as the torturous crushing of the cross looms in the near future, he leaves His disciples with this new commandment.
Love one another.
Think about this. It’s a simple statement, but don’t rush past it. Jesus’ commandment isn’t just another rule, but it is an identifier. It is a call to be! Disciples here are called to be vessels of grace to one another. Vessels of mercy, of forgiveness, of healing, of love.
I have an idea of what love is, and you certainly do too, maybe quite different than me. But, how did Jesus Christ, Word-made-flesh, define love?
One place to find an answer, of course, is in 1 Corinthians 13.
I’d encourage you to slowly, meditatively, prayerfully read this list with a specific relationship in mind. You might even want to read it several times thinking about different people. Even consider those who might be considered enemies, for Jesus has called us to love them as well.
- not jealous
- not boastful
- not proud
- not rude
- It does not demand its own way.
- It is not irritable.
- It keeps no record of being wronged.
- It does not rejoice about injustice.
- Instead, it rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
- Love never gives up.
- Love never loses faith.
- Love is always hopeful.
- Love endures through every circumstance.
Am I never jealous? Do I never make a decision based out of selfish pride? Am I always hopeful in that person? Have I never been rudely unfeeling or unthoughtful? Do I always cast this person’s offenses off, or do I meticulously bookkeep each hurt? Am I quick to laugh, or do I easily get irritated? Do I grieve when an enemy is dealt an injustice? Am I trusting in God enough that things always don’t have to go “my way”?
Do I press on and endure, being there for them, showing unconditional love to them, no matter the circumstance or consequence?
As I type this, I am overwhelmed with how impossible this command is. This is an infinitely tall order!
In fact, without the Savior, I can’t love to this extent, not on my own. No amount of self-will could create this in consistency, much less the desire to do so.
Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12
2 Timothy 2:20-22 talks about being vessels of God’s spirit.
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Oftentimes our earthly vessels are fractured by our own sin, cracked by others’ injuries, or just broken in pieces by life’s experiences. My own self-promotion, self-preservation, vain conceit, failing at creating true beauty, leave shivers of sin in my vessel.When we try to come close and pour grace into others, our own sharp, painful broken shards end up injuring those we try to love. We are broken jars and unable fix ourselves. Despite our best intentions, without the Master’s skillful, healing hand we remain of little good use.
That’s why Jesus said that love, His risky, inconvenient, self-sacrificing, sin-destroying love, would be an identification for those who have been with Him. We can’t be this in ourselves!
Abide in me, and let me abide in you…If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5
Jesus loved Peter throughout his denial. He was patient with the brothers of Zebedee who tried to exalt themselves. Jesus saw past Matthew the tax collector’s reputation. Even in His dealings with those who didn’t walk by faith, He loved them enough to confront them with truth despite their reaction. Because He Himself “treats us not as our sins deserve” (Psalm 103:10) and was himself about to offer payment in blood for her sin, he did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. Jesus washed the grime off of his betrayer Judas’s feet too. He remained silent before the accusatory false witnesses in the course of events that lead to Calvary. And, in His greatest act of love, he gave himself up to the shame of the cross, allowing his flesh to be ripped from His body, his joints to be snatched out of socket, his blood to be poured out like water upon the dirt at the foot of the cross. While we mocked Him. Disbelieved Him. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another
This is real. It could be uncomfortable, maybe painful.
But let’s love one another truly, deeply, as Jesus himself loved us. As Jesus washes the dirt and grime from our feet, let us share in His grace by washing one another’s feet. (John 13:14) Let’s find healing for our jagged slivers of brokenness in His presence and fellowship of His Spirit. Let’s ask Jesus, in prayer, that His words remain in us and enable us to bear the fruit of love. He has already promised that He will answer the prayer that comes from this pure heart (John 15:7). Let’s kneel before our Healer who restores our spirits to their original intention. As we love God with all our hearts, minds, and strengths, we will in fact be able to turn to our neighbors in love with the intentionality that we love ourselves .
by this all people will know that you are mine
As a facet of a diamond dazzles light, the new birth of the redeemed reflects love that is without condition.
Living for His glory.
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:8