“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 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 13:33-35)
What did Jesus mean when He said to His disciples “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?” The commandment to love God (Deuteronomy 6:1-5) and to love one another (Leviticus 19:18) were not new commandments. See Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:1-8.
In fact, Matthew 22:34-40 says, “But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Even the Apostle John in his first epistle writes, “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (I John 2:7-11)
Therefore, what did Jesus mean by His statement. Dr. John MacArthur sheds light on this question when he writes, “Jesus’ command regarding love presented a distinctly new standard for two reasons: 1) it was sacrificial love modeled after his love (“as I have loved you”; cf. John 15:13), and 2) it is produced through the New Covenant by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jeremiah 31:29-34; Ezekiel 36:24-26; Galatians 5:22).”
The unction or desire to love one another does not exclusively or solely come from an outward source, the Word of God, but also from an inner desire produced by the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is this self-sacrificial love of the will which should be a distinguishing mark of each believer in Christ. This is why Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Sometimes it is hard to love fellow believers in Christ. They do things which hurt. They say things which may hurt even worse than the things they do or do not do. I know! There have been brothers and sisters in Christ who have hurt me deeply. Not only does Jesus’ commandment keep me from continuing to be angry and bitter at the hurts I have received, it reminds me that as I have been hurt so I also have hurt others. I can only say that to those who I have hurt, it was not intentional. Yet, unfortunately it was still real. For that, I ask for your forgiveness.
Let all of us strive to love one another. The Apostle John explained it this way under the Holy Spirit’s direction. “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.” (I John 4:7-11).
Take time today to contact someone and tell them that you love them with the love of the Lord. Don’t delay. Do it today. You may never get another opportunity.
Soli deo Gloria!