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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, June 22 2023

A new commandment

During His last meal with His disciples Jesus announced, “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” (John 13:34-35).

by Don Hooser

This was not an eleventh commandment and did not do away with the original ten commandments (Matthew 5:17-20), but Jesus’ instruction added additional insight into how we should observe these commandments and approach our relationships with others.

Jesus also emphasized the two Great Commandments about love, quoting from the Old Testament (Mark 12:28-31). Deuteronomy 30:6 commands us “to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Leviticus 19:18 instructs us to “ love your neighbor as yourself.”

In every discussion about love in the Bible, the emphasis is on action, not feelings. To “love” a person means to treat him or her well. Following are three points to consider in regard to showing love for others.

Christ’s disciples should have a special love for one another

God and Jesus Christ love everyone (John 3:16), and Jesus had a special love for His disciples (John 13:1). But while there is a special relationship for Christians with God and Jesus Christ because of their obedience, godly character and love, God and Jesus Christ are never influenced by partiality or favoritism (Romans 2:11.)

Lazarus, Mary and Martha were apparently Jesus’ best friends, and Jesus regarded Peter, James and John as His three closest companions (Mark 9:2), with John being the disciple whom Jesus loved the most (John 13:23). Jesus said His disciples were His “friends” with whom He openly confided (John 15:13-15).

Likewise we, His modern day disciples, should have a special love for one another. Peter wrote: “You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Having the indwelling gift of God’s Holy Spirit enables us to have an intimate relationship with God and Jesus Christ. And when two people both have the Holy Spirit, they can and should have a very close and loving spiritual relationship.

Love people in the humble, self-sacrificing ways Jesus demonstrated

Jesus said, “I’m giving you a new commandment: Love each other in the same way that I have loved you” (John 13:34) and He repeated this in John 15:12 and 17. Therefore, we need to study the life and teachings of Jesus Christ to learn how He loved others and imitate His ways.

Paul described godly love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, and Jesus taught we should regard everyone as our neighbor, as in His parable of the good Samaritan. He taught “Treat others as you want them to treat you” (Matthew 7:12), and John wrote: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). To “lay down one’s life” can mean dying for someone, suffering for someone, or simply sacrificing one’s time to serve someone.

Jesus’ love extended well beyond “friends” and “brethren.” He astounded people by regularly showing compassion, empathy and love for the “little” people who were neglected and rejected. He touched the “untouchables.” He respected those who were deemed less important or looked down upon in that society—foreigners, women, children, the sick, poor and handicapped (even those afflicted with leprosy), and those with bad reputations. His ministry was a continual labor of love.

Philippians 2:1-8 refers to how our Savior sacrificed His incredible glory and power to come to earth to suffer humiliation, torture and death out of His love for every single human being. He taught that a “great” person is a voluntary servant of others (Mark 10:42-45) and instructed us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). Jesus continued to set us an example even as He was dying, when He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

A new sign: “By this all will know that you are My disciples...

Jesus highlighted love for each other would be the distinguishing mark of His disciples: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). This is a major way God’s people are to be “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16). Being “religious” is not a distinguishing mark—there are many religious people who are selfish, self-righteous and despise others.

When Jesus said “love for one another,” He didn’t mean just love family members and close friends. He meant for us to live by Romans 12 including: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (verse 10), distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality (verse 13), blessing those who persecute you (verse 14)” and also to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (verse 15).

Jesus taught how to practice a significantly higher standard of love, which is a primary sign identifying Christ’s disciples.