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The “new commandment”. What made it new?
During Jesus’ “last supper”, he gave a new commandment to his disciples as an identifying sign that they indeed were HIS disciples.
John 13:34-35 -- “A NEW commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
What made this “love one another” a “new commandment”? This command is actually found in the Old Testament Torah. In fact in the Old Testament it says to love one another as you love yourself! So how can this be a NEW commandment?
Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am YHVH (the LORD)”.
Leviticus 19:34 -- “The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am YHVH your God.”
Our Savior made sure we got the message, so He repeats his command that we love one another. But be thinking – what made this a new command?
John 15:17 - “These things I command you, that you love one another”.
1 John 4:20-21 “If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”
The fact is, however – we don’t always love one another. Maybe we love many or even most, most of the time. We can ACT like we do for a limited time. We can claim that we do. But honestly there are people we don’t like very much. On top of that, we show we don’t love all our brethren when we don’t help brothers and sisters in need as much or as quickly as the Messiah would have. Or when we gossip to others about someone’s problems, their stupidity, or past sins, or weaknesses – that’s not loving one another.
When we gossip about others, we start actually working for Satan, the Adversary – whose description – “the Devil” actually means “Slanderer”. ‘Devil” comes from the Greek word diabolos, meaning slanderer, accuser. You can verify this in just about any Bible Dictionary when you look up the word “Devil”.
Let’s read the new commandment again to determine what makes it truly new and an amazing kind of love. What makes it a new command is in all caps below.
John 13:34-35 -- “A NEW commandment I give to you, that you love one another; AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Nobody up til this time had ever loved others consistently and 100% of the time, as Jesus/Yeshua had. So He repeats it again in John 15.
John 15:12-13 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.”
But Jesus, the son of God, did not lay down his life just for his friends, but he laid down his life for us even while we were still sinners, still his enemies. He was up there on his cross asking Father in heaven to forgive those who had just brutally savaged him and were in the process of slowly and painfully killing him. Remember? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Romans 5:6-8 “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The way the Christ loved us is he reconciles himself to us when we repent -- even when we denied him in our actions and words. We’re told He’s not ashamed of you and me, and calls us his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:10-11). He reconciled beautifully with forlorn Peter after he had denied knowing the Messiah three times in one night. He doesn’t hold a grudge. He doesn’t gossip about us and our past sins. He covers us with his presence and holiness – and gifts us with his righteousness when we believe in him in faith (2 Cor. 5:21). He stands up to Satan’s accusations and defends us as our Advocate, our defense attorney in heaven (1 John 2:1-2).
And what does Romans 8 say at the end of the chapter? It says nothing can separate us from the love of God. NOTHING can. No one can separate us from God’s love for us. When we sin – and ask forgiveness and turn around – he forgives us. Sometimes, admit it, we have had to ask forgiveness for the very same sin – more than once, more than twice.
If we’re loving one another the way Christ loved us, it would be hard to separate brethren from your love. You see, again, nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39). There’s this “boundaries” teaching going on out there that encourages you to simply cut people out of your life when they bring nothing or little to YOU, or your life. People who follow this Satanic teaching then end up even dismissing their own mom or dad or siblings or former best friends. Is that the way Christ has loved us? NO!
Even when a person hurts us, sins against us, seven times in a day but then claims he’s repented each time, “You shall forgive him!” Let’s read it.
Luke 17:3-4 “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him."
Come on. Most of us would say “he can CLAIM he’s repenting, but look – seven times in one day he’s having to ask again for forgiveness? Come on! That’s not repentance!” –we might say as we get on our high horse. But Yeshua commands us “You shall forgive him”! Yes, even after sinning against you, hurting you, seven times in one day.
This is the face of true conversion. We’re growing in the image of Christ more and more. We talk like him more. We act like him more. It’s not just about starting to keep the holydays and quitting Easter and Christmas celebrations. It’s much deeper than those things. Really changing goes to the heart of the matter. It means letting God change who and what we really are! Isn’t that what “conversion” means? It means to become something or someone different.
And this is the kind of love God wants to see all his children demonstrating to one another: love the way Christ loves us in spite of ourselves.
Our Messiah upped the ante in Matthew 18 with Peter.
Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Seventy times seven. That’s an expression meaning keep doing it – as long as it takes.
Here Yeshua/Jesus is saying, “Folks, God has to forgive YOU way more than just seven times, and often for the very same things over and over, if you’re honest with yourself: attitudes like envy, pride, covetousness, breaking the sabbath, adultery happening in your thoughts, unkindness, losing your temper, and on and on and on – and now I want you all to learn to love one another the way I have loved you. KEEP forgiving one another. Keep growing in MY kindness and MY patience with one another. Let my way of life become truly your way – loving, waiting for one another, keeping no record of the other’s wrong doing. Read 1 Cor. 13:4-8 for a great description of my true agape love. Follow the lead of God’s spirit in you urging you to be like your Savior! Don’t dismiss people so easily as you’ve been doing. I’m not ashamed to call YOU, my brother! So you go and be the same way with brothers and sisters I call to be in the Body and BE their brother or sister!”
So what makes the new commandment NEW? Love one another AS, just like, Christ has loved you. Love one another not just as yourself – but love one another the way Christ loved you. That’s the higher level. That’s what makes it new.
The apostle Paul got the message. Here’s how he puts it:
Colossians 3:12-14 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”
Apostle John speaks of this higher love for fellow man throughout 1 John.
Love one another as I have loved you. He had pity on the people who were hungry and miserable. Many of his worst enemies – the Pharisees and priests – became strong believers in him in the early church (Acts 6:7). Wow! Talk about reconciling with people who had previously done you much harm. God even called one of them, Paul, to pen a third or more of the New Testament.
Here's some homework. You know yourself. You know Christ. How would he treat people in your world? How would he react to events and things that have happened to you by other brethren (both good and bad things)? Where is He telling you and me to change and become more like him?
Let’s hear our beloved Messiah’s words: “Love one another the way I have loved you”.
Let’s seek his mind, his help, his strength to do it. Ask him to truly come into your heart (Ephesians 3:17) and live in you (John 14:23), guide you, correct you, love you, teach you – and then pass all that on and be that same way to others.
Love others AS Christ loved you. Love others in the same way Jesus would and did.
This is a timely message for us especially those living in Africa. We need to show love to one another and forgive one another as we avoid jealousy and hypocrisy. Many thanks Brother for sharing. It is God's Holy Spirit who inspired you to write it at the time we need it most.
I have been reading John 13:34-35 for many years now but I have not been having a clearer exposition as to what makes it A NEW COMMANDMENT! Now I have got a better exposition, it is "LOVING ONE ANOTHER THE WAY CHRIST LOVED US". Thank you Philip Shields for the better exposition. Be blessed in Jesus name. George Otieno, Kenya Minister.