This month, I wanted to build upon the last week of our Lord’s ministry on earth with the following special apologetic message. I pray you will be blessed and built up in your faith if you are already a Christian, and if you are not, that God would use these words to cause you to believe and become part of His family of faith.
On the eve of the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, while sharing His last Passover with His disciples, Jesus gives “A New Command” – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34).
Jesus raised the bar
At first glance, there does not seem to be anything new about this “New Command” other than the fact that it is found in the New Testament. Surely, we hear an echo coming out of the Old Testament in Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This ancient command was well-known throughout the land of Israel. Add to that, when Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment in the Law, after love for God, He quoted this passage in Leviticus “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). So, why does Jesus call “loving one another” a “New Command?” Simply stated, it is because Jesus has raised the believer’s bar when it comes to living out the Christian life before the eyes of the watching world. Let’s take a look.
From: “love your neighbor” to “love one another” which means Family First!
From: “as yourself” to “as I have loved you” which means this is the Master’s Model!
The standard of love in the life of the Christian is no longer the self. Jesus has raised the bar for the believer all the way up to the Savior. No longer are we to love others just as we love ourselves, for that standard of love can be shallow, short-ended, and sinfully self-absorbed at times. Rather, in living out this new command we are to love others just as Jesus has loved us . . . and it is to begin in the family of faith. Therein lies the “Newness” of “A New Command” – creating “A New Community” built upon the foundation of Gospel Love. In our current cultural context that is steeped in expressive individualism, we must never forget, inasmuch as we are saved individually, we are saved to community.
A new community
In sharing the good news of the gospel over the years, I have discovered the number one obstacle to overcome in the unbeliever is not intellectual, emotional, theological, philosophical, or moral. It is LOVE. Because we do not love as Christ has loved us, our witness is weak, watered down, and left wanting. In The Apology, early church father Tertullian put it this way:
“It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See how they love one another, they say, for they themselves are animated by mutual hatred; how they are ready even to die for one another, they say, for they themselves will sooner put to death.”
Is this the opinion of the watching world today when looking at our churches? The early Christian church was known by its gospel-saturated love. Their love for one another created a new community and that new community shared that love with others . . . all others . . . and God used that love as the most powerful apologetic in creating new converts to Christianity. So, how has Jesus loved us? Sacrificially! Here are what I call the twin-towers of the sacrificial, Christ-centered love Jesus has poured out on us.
Lift another life up – John 13:4-5
Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel.
Lay your life down – John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
A new way to love
Here we see that the love of God in Christ Jesus not only died for us, that love also lived for us. In washing the feet of His disciples, Jesus demonstrated a love that willingly serves others, regardless of the cost or circumstance. It was customary in the ancient world to have the feet of guests washed when entering into your home. But on that night with the basin of water in clear view, no feet were washed until Jesus got up and willingly performed this task that only a servant would be required to do. All of the disciples should have been fighting over the privilege of washing the feet of Jesus and each other, but instead, it is Jesus who performs the task of the servant. And in going to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, Jesus demonstrated a love that willingly sacrificed everything for others.
So, how well are you living out this new command given by Jesus. Remember, this is not a new suggestion. It is as much a command as any one of the 10 Commandments. If we are to put the gospel on display before the watching world and point others to Jesus, we must preach this kind of gospel-love with both our lips and our lives. Gospel-love must be both declared and demonstrated if we are to show the world whose we are and what He has called us to do.
In his book, The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis examines the four Greek words for love and came up with three broad categories to which they belonged. For our purpose we will look at “Need Love” and “Gift Love.” Lewis said Need Love is born of emptiness and built upon self-satisfaction and cries to God from our poverty. When we say I love you it is code for I need you or You have something I want. Need Love is circular in nature, always working its way back to you. But Gift Love is different. It is born of fullness and built on self-sacrifice. It is an arc that moves out to bless others, increase others, serve others, and sacrifice for others.
So, have you received this Gift Love? If so, are you sharing it with others and living out the New Command Jesus has given to you? By God’s grace, may this be the confession of our lives for the glory of God and the good of others. In the words of Peter, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-23).
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
Dr. Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach (www.thecrosscc.org). He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com. For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, visit goodnewsfl.org/tommy-boland.