This week, the week of Valentine’s Day, we have been looking at different aspects of love. Yesterday as we looked deeper into John 3:16, the love verse, I told you that I have become a student of repetition in the Bible. It fascinates me that God’s love for us would compel Him to repeat Himself in the same manner that our love for our children compels us to repeat directions, advice, and commands. Our passage today does the exact same thing. Jesus is speaking to His disciples following the Last Supper and gives them a new commandment. The interesting thing is that in one sentence He repeats Himself.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35 (NKJV)
Throughout history there have been good leaders and bad leaders. Regardless of the good or bad description each leader has one thing in common, they gave commands. Jesus is no different, He was a leader who gave advice, instruction and commands to His followers. So, what make a good leader? In my opinion, a good leader is one who is able to say, “do as I do and say”. In this passage Jesus gave a command, “love one another”. Then Jesus give a clarifier or an example, “as I have loved you”. Then, the sentence is completed by Him repeating the command, “that you also love one another”. I believe that everything in scripture has a purpose, so I wondered why Jesus felt the need to repeat this phrase “love one another.” We know that we are to love our neighbor. We know that the second greatest commandment is to love others, and we generally relate that to the need for the church to love those outside of faith. In this passage, however, Jesus is speaking directly to the disciples. I believe that, in this case, the love one another was directed to the other disciples. For a moment, think of the problems that cause churches to split. We will argue over the color of the proverbial carpet. Jesus was preparing to leave them and knew that in the absence of their leader they would be tested, threatened, and stretched spiritually. The only way that they would be able to stand against everything that would be thrown at them was if they would stand together in love. I believe Jesus was encouraging them to draw closer to one another as a group. How do we expect to stand in the faith, to stand as The Church if we argue and bicker among ourselves? How effective will our ministry be if the world finds the faith community divided? Who would be drawn to Christ if the Christians couldn’t even love one another? Knowing this, Jesus gives this double command to His disciples, “love one another.” As I mentioned earlier, Jesus did not just give the command, but He also set an example. In work environments, I have been placed in circumstances where, despite the command being given clearly, it was still unclear of what was expected of me. I was not given an example or thermometer. Jesus gave both. The example was the way that He lived out love. I imagine a furniture manufacturer foreman going to his workers and saying, Here is the wood make a piece of furniture that looks right to you.” or better yet, “Here’s the wood you figure it out.” No. They would show the plans to ensure the worker gets each part to the specifications desired. Jesus did not say love the way you want to or love the best you know how. Jesus said love as I have loved you. As Christians we should be devout Gospel studiers. Jesus lived it out in front of the twelve, and now we have the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John so that we also would know how Jesus loved. He gave an example on how we are to love and we need to fully know and fully understand that example. The other thing that Jesus gave us is a thermometer. He said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” As I am working on a project, I will stop and evaluate how my project is shaping up against the plans or the assembly instructions, just a pause to test if I am heading the right direction. Jesus told His disciples that “IF” they loved “ALL” would know that they were His disciples. Love is not only the command but it is also the thermometer. If we love we are His. If the world could read the love thermometer in my mouth, I wonder if it would read, “Christ’s Disciple.” Our actions, attitudes, and words will tell the world if we are truly one of Jesus’ disciples. Let’s stand together in love toward one another and be true disciples of Jesus. In two sentences, the phrase “love one another” was given three times… It might be important. In our passage today, God has given us a command, example, command, and thermometer. Now it is up to us to obey, follow, obey, and test to ensure that we are true disciples.
God, I pray that we can understand that just as you have loved us we are to love those around us. Not only loving the non-believers but our fellow believers as well. God grant us the strength to follow your example of love and pause prior to each action and word we share to test if it proves your love to the world. WE pray this in the name of the Master of Love, Jesus Christ. Amen.