When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 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.’ 34 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. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”John 13:31-35
We are all familiar with the reference to the ten commandments, although most of us probably cannot list them without a bit of effort. Jesus then quoted from Deuteronomy the dual commandment that he said encompasses them all, You shall love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and your neighbor as yourself. When we think about it, it is very difficult to think we really keep this dual commandment.
Now Jesus says, “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.” This commandment is more exclusive than the previous commandment. In the first, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus defined neighbor as whomever we come across by the parable of the Good Samaritan. So, essentially, Jesus is calling us to love everyone we come into contact with. That is a good challenge, especially if you were just cut off on the freeway by one of your “neighbors.”
I have come to understand this first commandment also as a command to intentionally love our actual neighbors, those people who live in our neighborhoods. Most Americans don’t know the names of the people living in the closest eight houses around them, let alone know them well enough to love them and care for them. We who want to obey Jesus should realize that we are commanded to love our neighbors and do something about it.
In the new commandment, Jesus upped the ante. He defined the quality of love between people who follow Jesus to a higher level. We are to love one another just as Jesus has loved us. He demonstrated the ultimate measure of love by voluntarily giving his life for us. Part of the measure of his love is demonstrated not only in the fact that he died but how he died and for what purpose. He experienced extreme suffering by carrying the weight of all of our collective sins in his own body. Finally, the purpose of his death was to give us his life. I’m afraid that all Jesus followers that I know or have known in my life fall short of this kind of love. And yet, Jesus calls us to it. Obviously, it can only be manifest as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in us. We are not humanly capable of this kind of love.
Now the part that really shocks me. Jesus says, in reference to this kind of love, “By this [Jesus-kind of love] all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This kind of love is a mark of a disciple of Jesus. It is between brothers and sisters in Christ. It is so profound that the world will recognize that we are followers of Jesus by this kind of love. Right now, if you did a man-on-the-street interview, I believe you would mostly hear things like Christians are haters and bigotted and hypocrites rather than known for our love either for each other or the world.
I am afraid we have a long ways to go to demonstrate the Jesus-kind of love. We need to do some deep repenting and calling on God to fill us with the Holy Spirit so we can demonstrate Jesus-kind of love to one another as well as intentional love to our neighbors. I want to be known as a disciple of Jesus and then as a disciple-maker of others who will be disciple-makers. I have quite a ways to go to meet that goal, but I am looking to the Holy Spirit to transform me into the image of Jesus so I can demonstrate his love in the earth.
Will you join me in this quest to be the kind of follower of Jesus that demonstrates his love in such a way that the world will know that we are his disciples? The first step is to acknowledge that we are falling short and cry out to God in our failure for his grace to make up the difference.
This kind of love is one of the marks Jesus gave us of being a disciple. Let us pursue being his disciples.
This is the eleventh commandment.