The New Commandment to Love
Written April 2018
In the Gospel accounts it is not crystal clear whether Jesus first instituted the Lord’s Supper first or gave the new commandment that the disciples love one another. But for our purposes, that is the next major event I would like to look at in the Scriptures. After Jesus had set an incredible example for His disciples in calling them to wash one another’s feet and serve one another humbly, He set an even higher standard for them to love one another.
Jesus said – 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
The words that make this hard is “as I have loved you, you are to love one another.” Do you know what that means? This is not Valentine’s day love where we cuddle and are close to our sweethearts. That’s easy love. That’s happy and pleasant love to adore and love the ones that love you back. This was hard love. This was love that stayed true even though a disciple cursed the name of his savior. This is love that was still shown though almost all of your closest friends abandon You during Your darkest hour. Though they lose faith in You, regardless of the fact that You have never given them a moment to doubt Your power or person.
It is love that carries on regardless of our first, second, third, thousandth, or ten millionth betrayal. It is the love that is ever ready to forgive every harsh word, every lie, and every act of wickedness that we have ever done. It is love that is unwavering in the face of every false idol we worship, pursue, and lust after. That is God’s love for us. That is how Jesus Christ loves us every moment of every day, and that is what we are called to.
Beyond that, Jesus says that it is our love which will identify us to the rest of the world. If you look around at articles which try and identify the most recognizable brands in world you will not be surprised by the results. Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Nike, and Apple are just a few names in the top ten and all are instantly recognizable by their logos. Each of those companies have invested billions of dollars to tell the world who they are and to be recognized in an instant when someone sees their logo. Apple has invested countless wealth to be known as an electronics store with the greatest of whatever it is they sell.
The success of these companies investments are easily seen as no matter where you are in the world all of these companies are known, respected, and recognized.
In John 13:34-35 Jesus was telling His disciples His master plan to have the world know, respect, and be drawn to His people. The plan, love, radical, unconditional love. For anyone who has seen it and experienced it, love is an unstoppable force able to break down any barrier.
Max Lucado relates this story.
When Catherine Lawes’ husband, Lewis, became the warden on Sing Sing prison in 1921, she was a young mother of three daughters. Everybody warned her never to step foot inside the walls. But she didn’t listen to them. When the first prison basketball game was held, in she went, three girls in tow, and took a seat in the bleachers with the inmates.
When she heard that one convicted murderer was blind, she taught him Braille so he could read. Upon learning of inmates who were hearing impaired, she studied sign language so they could communicate. For sixteen years Catherine Lawes softened the hard hearts of the men of Sing Sing.
The prisoners knew something was wrong when Lewis Lawes didn’t report to work. Quickly the word spread that Catherine had been killed in a car accident. The following day as the acting warden took his early morning walk, he noticed a large gathering at the main gate. Every prisoner pressed against the fence. Eyes awash with tears. Faces solemn. No one spoke or moved.
The warden made a remarkable decision. “All right, men, you can go. Just be sure to check in tonight.” These were America’s hardest criminals. But the warden unlocked the gate for them, and they walked without escort or guard to the home of Catherine Lawes to pay their last respects. And each one returned.
Real love changes people. That’s genuine love. That’s true love.
When it comes to love, not easy love, but the hard, difficult, forgiving, generous, radical love. How often is it seen in your life? How often is it seen in our church? I remember back when I pastored in Burlington Terry Prichard, our associational missionary, his father was a deacon at the church where I pastored at the time. One night after a Sunday evening fellowship Allison and I were walking outside with him and his wife and he said hey do you want to see the space station?
Come to find out Terry, Dave’s son, is an astronomy buff. He loves looking at the stars and he said that the International Space Station would be passing overhead in just a few minutes. We waited just a little while and sure enough, streaking overhead at an incredible rate of speed was the space station. It looked like a fast moving bright star. Now I know you can go online and discover the optimal time to go and see the space station as it is still orbiting above the planet but that was the only time I ever saw it and it was amazing, seeing something man made in space.
You know as I think about that I wonder how much of a correlation there is between the number of times someone has seen the International Space Station flying overhead and the number of times someone has seen or experienced genuine true radical Christian love, like Christ loved us.
Because so often rather than hearing hope from the walls of the church people hear hate.
Rather than love the world sees us lashing out at one another.
Where love and forgiveness should be flowing they see legalism and pride.
Dr. J. Vernon McGee, an old Baptist minister who has been with the Lord many years, told a story about a little community where there were three churches on the same corner, a Presbyterian church, Methodist church and Baptist church. One Sunday night, all the windows were open and they could hear each other singing. They didn’t get along very well. The people in the Presbyterian Church were singing this song, “Will There be Any Stars in My Crown?”
Will there be any stars, any stars in my crown
When at evening the sun goeth down
When I wake with the blest in those mansions of rest
Will there be any stars in my crown.
When they finished, the Methodist church sang, “No, Not One.”
Then the Baptists sang, “Oh That Will be Glory for Me.”
Dr. McGee said that all three of those churches ought to sit down together and sing the doxology of praise to God. That’s what the world needs to see.
May I go one step further and say that every believer and every church should ask “Am I loving like Jesus?” Jesus loved us so much that He gave up His life and died on an old rugged cross.
Romans 5:8 – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Though we were unlovable, idolatrous, wicked, and caked with sin from head to toe Jesus loved us, His rebellious creation. Jesus went to extraordinary lengths and showed amazing patience with us so that we could gain forgiveness and be adopted into His family and be restored in fellowship. That is amazing, radical, and outlandish love for others. Is that how we love, or do we love in a selfish way, loving only those who never need forgiveness, who never get on our nerves, who never upset us?
One of the most amazing stories of practical, radical love that I have heard came from someone who lived towards the mountains of North Carolina. They said their church, which was a fairly big church, starting having problems with kids skateboarding at the church and damaging the railings and concrete around the building. They would grind on the railings and jump off the stairs. What did the church do? They loved the kids that were there and built them a skate park on the church grounds out of their own pockets. They did not hire security guards are call the police to monitor the kids that were there and run them away from the church, they embraced them with radical love.
I wonder what kind of impact that church made on the lives of those kids by saying we care about you and don’t want to run you off or scold you for playing in our parking lot. I wonder how powerful that act of love was in the lives of those youth? I wonder how powerful our lives could be if we, instead of pushing others away, embraced them in love.
I wonder how much of an impact we could make if, in love, we offered forgiveness and help and hope to those that are the outcasts of society. If we put aside our desire to be right and extend a hand to our fellow believer that we have refused to talk to for twenty years. Jesus said that we would be known by our love that we have one to another. If love was a paint, would love be the color of your life?