By Randy Dillon
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.”
As Jesus entered the Passion Week, he continued to teach his disciples about the kingdom of God. Love was always a central theme of His teaching as exemplified in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7.) Paul also taught the need for followers of Christ to be full of love (I Corinthians 13.) The above passage reiterates this need for love that should emanate from all Christians. We are called to love everyone, even our worst enemies and critics. We should be admonished by Christ while on the cross as He asked His Father to forgive his prosecutors, judges and executioners for their ignorance. The above passage is a distinct one in that it deals with the love that should be found between believers, as a particular kind of love that resonates among the unredeemed.
Jesus was speaking specifically to His disciples here as He called upon them to love each other as Jesus himself demonstrated love for them. This was not a fleeting suggestion to be observed as they felt and on occasion as they desired. Notice that Jesus begins this passage as a “commandment.” It is an imperative, a requirement of a Christian life. It is not an option.
Sadly, in the modern church there are so many impulses for divisiveness among members of the congregations that in many ways we have lost sight of this commandment. There are tendencies among church members to place their own desires, opinions and feelings above love. We see this in those who want their own way rather than the consensus of the worshipers. We see it in such mundane things as divisions over the color of the carpet, the order of worship, the style of music selected for worship, the desire to follow a person rather than scripture, the programs of the church and so many other issues.
When Christians ignore this new commandment from Jesus, we are actually witnessing to the unsaved community that these issues are of greater importance than our love for one another. Sadly, again, we allow our own desires to dictate our actions rather than humbling ourselves to one another for the greater good.
And the root cause of this most human of sins is nothing less than PRIDE. Pride of self, of our superior value as a member of the body of Christ, leads us to place this kind of pride as more valuable than our love for our fellow believers. We may sense our higher value in the community of believers based on our faithfulness in attendance, or our generosity in funding the church, or our superior knowledge of scripture, or our personal wealth, or where we reside in the community. The list is obviously not exhaustive. But anything that leads us to place a lesser value of love is prideful and we should examine our motives and actions based on whether they are loving or self-centered.
This is not a matter of choosing between two alternatives. It a command from our Savior and Lord. It should become our daily practice and our daily prayer to love one another in such a manner that the world will see the results of our love for one another and our willingness to humbly replace our sinful pride with such love.