Jn. 13: 34-35 - 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
The Apostle John is head over heels in love with LOVE. All the writers of the NT talk about it, but it seems that John, the one whom Jesus loved, just can’t get enough. His Gospel, his Letters are dripping with it. And there is a very powerful and special significance to the LOVE than John loves. Love is used in as many different ways in the Bible as there are ways to experience it. There are several words commonly used, and each has its own emphasis. But there is one thing about John's use of LOVE that is unique.
In 1st John, he refers to this passage above as “the commandment that you have had from the beginning”. It is central to everything we are. It is ‘old’ because it is the foundation of the community of believers founded by Jesus Himself. It is new because it is unlike any the world has ever seen. It is our identity; it is our mark (1Jn 4:7). It sets us apart from all others in the entire world. It validates our salvation to our own hearts (1Jn 4:12 & 16). John goes so far as to say that if we do not have this love, we need to take a very close look at our relationship with God Himself (1Jn 4:8). While this is a commandment from our Savior, it is not something that we actually do. Paul tells us that God ‘poured it out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given us” (Rom 5:5). So while we actively participate (it is a command), it is a supernatural work of God, not our own (it is a miracle, pointing to Christ).
So then, what makes this LOVE so different from all other loves? What makes it such that Jesus says when people in the world see it, they KNOW ‘oh, that’s one of those Jesus Followers!!)? Some say that since it is God’s Love, and we Love because HE first Loved us, that it is a love with a special quality, a purity, superior to any human love. I suppose that is true, certainly, God’s love is just that, but that is not what Jn 13 seems to say.
First of all, it is not just love for all men, it is the love of Christian to Christian. Yes, we are to love all men and win them to the Gospel by this kind of love. But the LOVE that Jesus and John say marks us as who we are is specifically a Love that we have for each other. It is not some internal quality of LOVE that is better love. That would not be visible, right out there for everyone to see. No, it’s each of us Christians loving each of us Christian.
And there is one extraordinary little word in this verse that is, I think, the most important word in the whole verse. It is the word “IF”. It carries potential. It means it can happen, but it might not, perhaps not in ordinary circumstances. If means that the miracle is the simple fact that this love happens at all, and everyone can see it. What does that look like?
Revelation 14:6 says the Gospel is for every Nation and Tribe and Tongue and People. Look at the first church. There were Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and Barbarians (my ancestors I think), rich and poor, educated and uneducated, tax collectors, fishermen, male and female, Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests, Scribes, Romans, Soldiers, Centurions, members of Caesar’s own household. What did they have in common? Nothing, until they knew Christ as Lord and Savior. In real life, they would not have even known one another. They would have had little or nothing to do with each other. People in the human community connect to those who resemble themselves.
Now they have EVERYTHING in common. Life, Salvation, the Holy Spirit, Grace, Mercy, Eternity. For a short time, even their possessions (Acts 2:44). And the world saw this, knew it was impossible, and it was amazed. Acts 2:47 says these Christians as a community found favor with all the people. I can see why.
People in our day are characterized by division and rage. We as Christians need to become, to be and to show this same new commandment, this miracle. It is a work of God, not ourselves, but it is our born-again birthright. It is our calling and our foundation. We can’t do it ourselves, but God can, and I am pretty sure He wants to.