Sometimes, one verse holds so much insight that it’s hard to move on from it. That’s what happened when I read this one:
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”John 13:34-35 NLT
I know exactly why the Holy Spirit stopped me here. There are three key points in this passage that need to take root in my heart. As Jesus commanded His disciples to love each other, He commanded them to do so just as He had loved them, proving to others that they were His disciples.
I haven’t been doing very well with this “love each other” stuff lately. Instead, I’ve decided some people aren’t worthy of my time — much less my love. They hurt me. They ignored me. They marginalized me.
Support for not loving some people was easy to find. In the eyes of many, my feelings were understandable. Social media posts often encourage us to remove people from our lives who complicate it. So, eliminating the distraction meant I could focus on more important things. Just writing those words makes me cringe at how reducing one of God’s children to a distraction is so dehumanizing. Nevertheless, I was ready to do that and could probably even give you biblical justification for withholding love.
It’s possible to make almost any preference biblical if you are willing to take God’s Word out of context. And don’t we feel better when we convince ourselves that God understands our disobedience? Maybe so, but in this case, there’s no way to take the simple words of Jesus out of context when He says, “Love each other.”
Sometimes what isn’t said is as powerful as what is said. Jesus didn’t say, “I’d like you to consider what it would look like if you guys just loved each other, then get back to me.” No — He was much more direct. “Love each other.” Then, He goes on to say something even more challenging:
“Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”
That statement begs the question? How has Jesus loved me? Jesus has always loved me even though I have hurt Him. I have ignored Him. I have marginalized Him. In other words, I have done the same things to Him as I have been resentful of others doing to me. Yet, instead of Him responding in kind, He still loves me.
I am a lifelong believer in Jesus Christ, and there’s still so much I don’t understand about the Father’s love. How is it that He loves people I see as unlovable as much as He loves me? It’s humbling to remember that others who see me as unlovable wonder the same thing.
When Jesus uttered these words, He was with the disciples — men who knew Jesus intimately and loved Him. Somehow, though, Jesus needed to remind them to love one another. It’s as if He knew they would be tempted not to love each other as they should once He was gone. But He also knew that squabbling amongst themselves would undermine their witness in the world.
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Another way of reading these words is, “People won’t know you are my disciples if you don’t love one another.” People not only question our faithfulness to Jesus when we fail to follow His commands, they question whether Jesus is even real. I never want to be a reason a nonbeliever remains one, especially knowing His love for us is sacrificial.
- He sacrificed His comfort when He resisted temptation in the wilderness during 40 days of fasting and prayer.
- He sacrificed His dignity when He was unfairly tried in a court of public opinion.
- He sacrificed His will to the Father’s when He endured an excruciating death.
What He asks of me pales in comparison.
Today, I sacrifice my pride, righteous indignation, and preferences and submit to His command to love others as He has loved me. This is not a one-time decision. I will be reminding myself for the rest of my life that it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that I can love as Jesus did. Will you join me in making that same decision?