So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.John 13:34 (NLT)
There are times when I don’t like what Jesus has to say. I know, that sounds strange coming out of a pastor’s mouth. So, let me clarify. I don’t like what He has to say because it makes my ability to live out His directions in my life so much more difficult. There are many examples of this: Lusting is the same as adultery; hate is the same as murder; and so on. (See the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7) It’s easy for me to understand how to not behave a certain way, but Jesus ramps things up a bit when He says that it’s a sin to even dwell on certain things. Yikes!
This brings us to this command, “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” That is a BIG statement. As God loves us, we are to love others. What exactly does this mean? Well, the Greek word used here by John (The disciple who wrote this particular book) is agapao, which means to have a deep level of affection and intimacy. Note: the intimacy referenced here is not sexual in nature. Rather, it means a very close bond – best friends, if you will. It also goes beyond just outward behavior. It relates to the heart we have for others.
In a very basic way, this type of love means that we must lay down our lives for others, just as Jesus did. We must live to serve others. We must form intimate bonds with others. In short, we are called to move from being mere acquaintances with those around us, to being very good friends who can trust us and we can trust them.
So, who are the “others” that Jesus is talking about here? Given the context, He is speaking to His disciples. In our context, this means He is speaking to His church.
Jesus knew that as soon as He departed the earth, outside influences, ego, and pride could easily creep into Christians everywhere, and the movement that He planted would falter. Infighting, name calling, clique building, condemnation, judgment, and so many other things would threaten to derail the mission of Christendom (Which is to spread the Gospel).
Based on what I see on social media these days, we need this verse to call us back to how things are supposed to work. Love each other, people. Love as Jesus loved.