Read John 13:36-14:14
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (vv. 34, 35).
“Where are you going?” “How do we get there?” “Show us the Father!” These were some of the questions racing through the minds of the disciples as they spent those last minutes with Jesus in the Upper Room. I suppose that shouldn’t surprise us. After all, He had just announced His departure . . . and its imminence. Truth be told, He had been telling them about it for some time. Perhaps they were finally beginning to grasp it.
But nestled in His statements was a command. Given the alarm surrounding His leaving them, this command never became a focal point for their conversation. Departure questions seemed much more pressing. Given the weight of this command, however, it deserves our focused attention. The root of the command seems simple enough: “Love one another.” But Jesus identifies the command as “new” and as “distinguishing.”
What was new about the command? In itself, “love” was not new. They had already been instructed to love God and to love their neighbor. But, now, rather than only targeting love toward those in need, this love was to be directed toward other believers . . . a love of one believer for another believer. And now, rather than having a standard of love defined by “as you love yourself,” this love was to be as sacrificial and unconditional as Jesus demonstrated in His life and death. You see, He was directing them towards a new object (“one another” rather than “neighbor”) and a new standard (“as I have loved you” rather than “as yourself”).
As stated earlier, this love of believer for believer was not only “new” but also “distinguishing.” This kind of love would be the distinguishing characteristic that would allow the unbelieving world to recognize people as His disciples. That is interesting. While we distinguish and identify ourselves in terms of things like bumper stickers, Christian paraphernalia, a list of things we do or choose not to do, or doctrinal positions, Jesus says that others will recognize us on the basis of the love we demonstrate to other believers.
How will you obey this new and distinguishing command today?