Love One Another
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)
Love. Agape. Sacrifice. How can Jesus expect us to love not only those we don’t like, but those who don’t like us. These commands are highly unreasonable! But this command… love one another…now we can do that…right? I can easily love others like me. Isn’t what the passage is saying? I don’t even mind sacrificing for those like me sometimes. Wait, what is this last statement? We are known to be Jesus disciples when we love one another? So we are not known to be His disciples by keeping the 10 commandments, speaking in tongues, Sabbath observance, or believing in predestination. I can do all those with ease.
Kinda sounds like the rich young ruler doesn’t it? He was able to say he kept all the commands of God, but when Jesus asked him to love the poor by selling all he had and giving it to them, he balked and walked away. Jesus was asking him to “…love one another…”, that is, to love those who were like himself. His problem: he didn’t consider the poor to be like him, and therefore they were not worthy of his love. So Jesus, at the close of His life, decided to demonstrate His final Love commandment.
It is the Passover. Judas is going to betray Him. Peter is going to deny Him. All are going to forsake Him. The Pharisees will have a mock trial to convict Him. The Romans will mercilessly crucify Him. The two thieves will mock Him.
It will get so bad that no one, not even His closest friends, would acknowledge Him, until…
…one of the Jewish thieves stops demanding Jesus save Himself and simply asks to be remembered in His kingdom.
…a lone African man, whose sons Rufus and Alexander were Jesus disciples, is forced to carry the cross, which he later accepts gratefully as the guiding principle of his life.
…the commanding Roman Centurion proclaims Him the Son of God when he observes Jesus die, and its effects upon the natural world around him.
This commandment of Jesus is said knowing that all this will happen. He commands us to love one another. Who does He have in mind when he says one another? He has in mind everyone involved in the story of His sacrifice. This is not simply a statement of believers to love believers. Yes, disciples of Jesus are to love one another, and yet Jesus’ demonstration of His words encompasses more than just loving other disciples: Jesus loved unbelievers, apostates, blasphemers, persecutors…
Jesus’ demonstration is a call to Christian to live based on the principle of love regardless of who is being loved, or their response to the love. Jesus’ example shows that the kingdom of God is built on love, even in the face of injustice.
How can Jesus love like this? Many of us love in order to receive love. We have emotional and identity value problems and so our love is most times not agape. Jesus, however, knew a few things:
“Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto the end”
Jesus knew what time it was. He was not trying to prolong the inevitable. He knew His purpose. He wasn’t holding on to anything.
He also knew He had loved His disciples. This means He had no regrets when dealing with them, no unspoken words.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself.
Jesus knew everything He had. There was nothing God had or would withhold from Him.
Jesus knew who He was, and whose He was.
Jesus knew where He was from and where He was going.
These points inform us that Jesus didn’t love us out of His need. His needs were fulfilled. He loved us out of our need. It is precisely this point that Christians must come to. Many of us do not love because we still need: we need value, identity, purpose, intimacy, etc. We need these things because we identify ourselves, or value ourselves, based on the categories life dictates: gender, race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, socio-economic status, etc. When we hold to those many times conflicting categories, we lose the ability to love those outside of our category. Jesus loved us all because we all fall into 1 large category: fallen humanity. Jesus had the ability to love us because His identity, value, and purpose were not based in who He was here, but in who He was there. He received from God, and so could give to us.
And yet He identified himself with us, loving us because He is God, but also loving us because He is family…human family.
And He commands us to love each other based on our shared humanity in this sinful world. He commands us to love because we have been loved by One greater than this world. He commands us to love in the face of evil, and to act lovingly. The example of Jesus demands that love be the response to abuse, not from a pathetic pacifistic place, but from a noble, regal, child-of-God place. We are commanded to love for the salvation of the other. We love not in response to, or in the hope (the need) of love form the other, but because we are loved by our Father, and it is the Law.