Love, So That They Know You Are Mine

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

As I pray and prepare for each new calendar year, I seek a verse or passage that will be a major theme in the new year. This past year, it has been Prov. 16:9, which reminds us that though we can plan, pray, and prepare, ultimately it is the Lord’s purposes that prevail. Thus, we walk in trusting humility that the Lord’s ways are best. For this next year, a guiding passage will be John 13:34-35, which is listed above in the introduction to this article. As I seek the LORD, study His Word, and work to serve Him and His people during 2022, this short passage will be one of the themes that percolates through my mind and heart each day. I invite you to join me in using this passage as a guiding light in your own life and ministry in the new year.
 
In this short article, let’s take a brief look at the words of Jesus in John 13, which are part of the “Upper Room Discourse” that He gave to the disciples before going to the cross. The first part says:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you are to love one another.” What is it that is new here? It’s not that love was not mentioned in the Old Testament. Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18 teach that love of God and love of neighbor were already commanded under the Mosaic Law. It is a “new” commandment in that now that the New Testament has come, there is a new understanding of love. In His love, God sent His Son to save sinners, and in His love for the Father, the Son obeys and comes to earth to be the perfect and righteous sacrifice for sin. It is also new because of the next part of the verse.

 “As I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This commandment is new because now we have a new dimension and understanding of what love is. God has sent us His Son to show us what love looks like. This Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, has come to earth out of loving obedience to the Father, and He shows us that true love is full, sacrificial, pure, and effective. “To love one another as I have loved you,” is to consider what is best for the other person. Is that not what Jesus did? All too often, our problems come because we wait to be loved instead of showing love to others. Jesus shows us a better way. In His example, Jesus displayed that love is outreaching, sacrificial, other-focused, and committed to the well-being of the other.
 
“As I have loved you.” How did Jesus love his own? We could give many things at this point. First, Jesus left the glories of Heaven to come and live among us. He humbled Himself for our good. Second, Jesus was authentic in his expression of love to His own. He was kind, forthright, gentle, truthful, and pure in His love. There was never anything manipulative or untoward in His love. It was freely given to those around Him. Third, He showed us that love is costly. If we are to love others as He has loved us, we too will find that love is costly. Love cost God His own Son. Love may cost us time, money, effort, emotions, or even energy. But we are commanded to love just as He loved us.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples.” What do people see when they look at our worshiping community? Do they see that we care for each other and seek the common good in all of our activities? Do they see a group of believers who humbly love, serve, and defer to one another? Or do they see a disparate group of autonomous individuals, who seek their own needs first and, if they find the time, meet the needs of others? I know this is a provocative question, but Jesus makes a provocative claim. Jesus calls us to show others that we are truly His disciples, not those of any other personal or parochial interest. By showing the sacrificial and costly love of Jesus to one another, the unbelieving world will see and know that we are in fact followers of Jesus. However, if they see us acting a lot like they do: seeking first our own good, our own well-being, instead of seeking the good of others, they will conclude rightly that there really is nothing different about us or about our message. Jesus delivers a serious challenge here. If we do not feel the weight of that challenge, perhaps we have not truly contemplated what He is saying. Do we know what it is to love others as Jesus has loved us?

“If you have love for one another.” Of course, the power to love one another can only come from the LORD, but it is this type of love – true biblical love – that the world needs to see and know. The love that Jesus showed is love that transforms, that changes, that serves, and that helps. It is that type of love that makes a difference in the lives of others, just as it did in ours.
As I look at this new year, with this key verse guiding much of my thinking, I invite you to join me and consider what John 13:34-35 means. Ask yourself these questions: What does it mean to love one another? What does it mean to love like Jesus loved? What does it mean that others might know that we are Christians?

For me, the call to love like Jesus will affect the books that I read, the TV programs that I watch, the voices on the internet or from the larger culture that I will listen to, and how I plan my daily and weekly activities. I invite you to join me in asking the LORD to help you live out these powerful verses in 2022. Imagine what our church can become if we were to love one another. Imagine the impact we could have on our city if we were to love one another. Imagine unbelievers coming to faith in Christ, sin and addiction being overcome, marriages being strengthened, relationships being restored, people being healed emotionally, if we were to love one another as Jesus has loved us. What steps will His love move you to make in this new year?

Wishing you all the best in Christ for a blessed and fruitful 2022!

Pastor Gregg Hensel
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