FOLLOWING JESUS – AS I HAVE LOVED YOU

In John 13:34 & 35 Jesus said:

‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

In these verses Jesus commands his eleven faithful disciples to ‘love one another’. There is something special about the love that followers of Christ are to have for ‘one another’, something additional to the love for the neighbour commanded in Leviticus 19:18 and reaffirmed by both the Jews and Jesus in the gospels.

Jesus repeated his command in John 15:12 & 17:

‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. ... This is my command: Love each other.’

And it is repeated by Paul, Peter and John, in their letters to believers:

‘Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves’ (Romans 12:10).

‘Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia’ (1Thessalonians 4:9, 10).

‘... be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble’ (1Peter 3:8).

‘For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another ... to love one another as he commanded us’ (1John 3:11, 23).

‘... let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God ... since God so loves us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us’ (1John 4:7, 11, 12).

There are two important truths about this love for one another: it comes from God, and it is evidence that a person has been regenerated by God, knows God and is indwelt by God. It is a love for each other that only those who know God by knowing Jesus Christ can have. (Note that Jesus did not give this command until Judas, the unbeliever, had left. Jesus did not expect him to have this kind of love.)

What does it look like? What does Jesus’ ‘as I have loved you’ mean?

It is a humble, self-denying, love, as some of the references above point out, and as Paul states strongly in Philippians 2:1ff:

‘... if any comfort from his love ... they make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing ...’

It is a compassionate, forgiving love:

‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ (Ephesians 4:32, 5:1).

‘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 one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you’ (Colossians 3:12, 13).

It is a love that expresses our unity in Christ:

‘And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace’ (Colossians 3:14, 15).

‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is on body and one Spirit ... on hope ... one Lord, one faith, one baptism; on God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all’ (Ephesians 4:2 – 6).

Like the love of Christ, it is a love that transcends all those things that create divisions and tensions between people – race, politics, gender, social status, financial status, and so on. We are ‘all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28); ‘he himself is our peace’ (Ephesians 2:14).

If we are followers of Jesus Christ, this is his command, and this should be the goal: that we love our fellow-believers as he has loved us.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2021