When I was in high school, I remember asking my parents for a letterman’s jacket. You got one of these for a couple of reasons. To support your school, sure. But also for the patches – if you “lettered,” what you lettered in, what special patches / awards you’d earned. It showed the whole school and community who you were.
We do the same type of thing all the time. Our kids wear shirts for the clubs or groups they’re in; we put the logo of our favorite sports team on our cars; we make shirts with our church logo on them.
Christianity is no different. We have our crosses and our ichthus fish. But, the Bible says there is a mark that should identify all Christians – our love.
Nestled in Jesus’ teaching on the night of his betrayal is this short instruction that is almost overlooked. It’s not that we’re not familiar with it; it’s just that we almost flow right over it. Jesus says, I’m going and you cannot come. Then he gives his instruction on love and Peter seemingly ignores that and goes right back to: where are you going and why can’t I come?
But what’s said here is not small. In fact, it’s so important that God seared it on John’s heart and inspired him to write all about it. You’ll notice the familiarity if you’ve been reading along in 1, 2, 3 John this past week. (A new commandment – 1 John 2; brotherly love – 1 John 3-4, 2 John.)
** A NEW commandment. Why this new commandment here? Jesus has just told the disciples he will be betrayed. The Father is going to glorify him, but he is not going to remain with them. For years these disciples have followed Jesus. And, though they’ve done some amazing things, they really haven’t been known of themselves. They’ve been known because they were with Jesus. What has united them together and made them known to the world is the love of Jesus. But now that Jesus would no longer be bodily with them what would unite and identify them?
Turns out it’s the same thing: the love of Jesus. Only now its not going to be displayed through Jesus. It’s going to be displayed in them. (The first time Peter and John speak before the Jewish council after Jesus leaves, the members “recognized that they had been with Jesus” – Acts 4:13) What makes this “new” is that we’re loving in a new way – with the love of Jesus. More on that in a minute.
A new COMMANDMENT. This is not a new philosophy; not a new perspective; not a new self-help strategy. This is a new command – an instruction from the Lord.
What is it?
** Love one another. Let’s identify. The one another is Jesus’ disciples. The instruction is love. Now, the sinful, self-justifying part of us immediately wants to ask, what do you mean by love? Is it just something we say (I’m stuck with you so I put up with you)? Is it a choice we make absent of feeling (I love you, but I don’t have to like you)? The word-nerds are asking what kind of love (philos, eros, agape, store).
The answer is simple and immense. It’s what gives this whole thing substance and strength.
** As Jesus loved us. Most likely Leviticus 19.18 is the old commandment (as John would state in 1 John 2-4). What makes this “new” is that we are not simply to love our neighbors as ourselves, but as Jesus loved us.
In the context of the chapter we have a service oriented love – “having loved his own…he loved them to the end…(13:1)” Within 24 hours Jesus would be dead, but he was going to love until the end. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.
Later Jesus would repeat this command and explain that the greatest love is in laying one’s life down for his friends (Jn 15:12-13).
In Romans 12 we are told it must be genuine and have feeling. As Paul is exhorting us to live a Christian life, one of his instructions (v9-10) is to be genuine in love and to love one another with brotherly affection.
Jesus’ love is a genuine affection with acts of service and sacrifice that comes from being with one another.
How important is it?
** This is the mark of a Christian. All people will know you are a follower of Jesus by this.
It’s rooted in your salvation. 1 John 4:19-5:1 – We love because he first loved us; we cannot love God and hate our brothers; everyone who loves the Father loves all those born of him.
It grows from your personal sanctification. 2 John 1:6 – love for one another is walking in the commandments
It’s also how you know you are a follower of Jesus.
1 John 3:14 – We know we’ve passed out of death because we love the brothers.
How do we practice this?
~ Trust in the saving work of Jesus
~ Commit to a body of believers; get involved
~ Seek to grow in devotion to God
~ Reconcile where needed
Messages in this series
Messages by Greg Taylor