ALL THINGS NEW

A NEW COMMANDMENT

Within the new reality that is established by Jesus Christ, and into which the person who believes in Christ is incorporated, there is a range of new perspectives and new values.

Jesus, speaking to the eleven believing disciples after Judas had left to betray him, said: “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 that you are my disciples, if you love one another” [John 13:34,35].

On the surface, it seems strange that Jesus calls this a ‘new commandment’. The command to love our neighbour is found in the Old Testament [Leviticus 19:18] and nine times in the New Testament [Matthew 5:43; 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8].

But in all but one of these verses the command is to love our neighbour ‘as yourself’, and it is here that we uncover the distinction, the newness, of the ‘new’ command given by Jesus to his disciples: it is that we love one another ‘as I have loved you’.

Here, within the community of those redeemed by Jesus Christ, love takes on a new definition, a new description, a new dimension that must distinguish his disciples from all others. It is no longer defined by our love for ourself: it is defined by Christ’s love for us.

This ‘as I have loved you’ measure and definition of love is expressed elsewhere in the New Testament:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” [Ephesians 4:32; 5:1-2].

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” [Colossians 3:12-14].

“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. … I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you” [1John 2:6,8 – in the context of not hating our brothers].

This ‘as I have loved you’ love among the members of the believing community is intended to provide a living demonstration of the love of Christ and the mercy of God. By this love the grace of Christ is made known. By this love the character of our heavenly Father is placarded before the watching world.

Only those who have received this love can love with this love. Only those who realize their own unworthiness to be the recipients of this unconditional love can have the freedom to love unconditionally. Because of this, this love is unique to those who know the love of Christ.

This is the command, this is the challenge of the new reality and the new relationship with God and with each other that is granted to those who are ‘in Christ’: that this reality and this relationship are to be reflected in the love of Christ we express towards our fellow believers. As the children of God we are to love each other just as God loves us. As the children of God we are to forgive each other just as God forgives us. As the children of God we are to be compassionate towards each other just as he is compassionate towards us.

We can do this only if we have understood and believed what Christ has done for us.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012