The New Commandment

"Love one another as I have loved you" - John 13:34

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. — John 13:34

My high school chemistry teacher used to always talk about the “acid test.” The acid test is a sure-fire way to identify a substance. The Bible reveals that the acid test of the Christian life is love. Love is not simply a virtue of the Christian life; it is the Christian life. It is the oxygen of the Kingdom. There is no life without it. Everything — the spiritual gifts, prophecy, knowledge, wisdom — will come to an end, but love knows no end. It goes right on through the portal of death and into eternity. Paul said that if we

have not love, it profits [us] nothing. — 1 Corinthians 13:3

On the very evening before His crucifixion, our Lord gave us a “new commandment” that supersedes the others not only in attitude, but also in action.

A New Rule

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you”

A casual reading of this text might tempt the reader to pass over two very important words. For one, this is a commandment. It is not a suggestion or a mere option. It has behind it all the authority of the Godhead. And it is a new commandment. Although the language of the New Testament reveals that this commandment is not new in time (God’s love has been around forever), this commandment is new in its expression. It is fresh; it is the opposite of worn out.

Until now, on the very eve of the crucifixion, the best we could do was to live on the level of the old commandment. This old commandment is found in Leviticus 19:18 and referenced in the Great Commandment. That is, we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This self-love is a love with limits. It is often conditional on such matters as time or conduct, situations or social standing. It can lend itself to selfishness because it speaks of a self-love. It can also be changeable and fickle.

But real love is expressed by a new rule. For thirty-three years Jesus gave us a picture of how real love was to be evidenced. Up until then, the best we could do was to live on the level of the old commandment of self-love. In essence, Jesus said, “For over three decades now I have shown you real love. I am about to leave you, so before I go, a new

commandment I am giving you. No longer are you to love one another as you love yourself, but ‘as I have loved you.’”

A Natural Reaction

“as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

We are totally incapable of loving like this on our own. The only way this can become a natural reaction for us is to experientially know the love of Christ in our own hearts. This new commandment changes things. No longer are we to love on that self level. Now, we are to love as Jesus loved us — unconditionally. Once we receive His love, we are to release it to others in the same way He loves us. Talk about revolutionary thinking, here it is personified.

In order to love others on this level, we must know the kind of love Jesus loves us with.

His love is unlimited. Paul said to the Romans that nothing

…shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:39

To the Ephesians, he expressed it as the “width and length and depth and height” of God’s love (Ephesians 3:18). Not only is Christ’s love to us unlimited, but it is also unconditional. It is not conditioned upon time or conduct or situations that may be in play. In fact,

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:8

His love is also unselfish, so much so that it took Him all the way to the cross. And of course, we should note that His love is also unchangeable.

As the writer of the Hebrews said,

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. — Hebrews 13:8

Thus, as we beat out our love relationships on the anvil of our own personal experience, we will love others with a love that is unlimited, unconditional, unselfish, and unchangeable. That is, if we love others as Jesus has loved us.

What is the result of this type of love? The very next verse is explicit:

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. — John 13:35

Perhaps John put it best when he said,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. — 1 John 4:7–8

This longtime recipient of Christ’s love added,

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. — 1 John 3:14

Yes, love is the Christian life. It is the oxygen of the Kingdom. It is the acid test of our own discipleship. God did not write in the sky or send a tract in order to reveal His love toward us. He sent His Son. Love did that. He demonstrated His love to us.

As you memorize this verse, meditate on the fact that the Bible reveals a picture of real love to us in everything Jesus said and did. Our challenge is now to obey the “new commandment” by loving others on this higher level of love, in the same way that Jesus loves us.

Excerpted with permission from The Joshua Code by O. S. Hawkins, copyright O. S. Hawkins.

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Your Turn

Love is the secret sauce of the Christian! Love in every circumstance. Love to every person whether friend of someone who chooses to be an enemy. Love if we agree or disagree. Love whether we’re Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Green Party, Libertarian, or otherwise. Love if we’re POC or white. Love. Full stop. Love is the key. It’s a commandment. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

Dr. O.S. Hawkins

For more than 20 years, O. S. Hawkins served pastorates at the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and in Dallas, Texas. He is president of GuideStone Financial Resources, which serves 200,000 pastors, church staff, missionaries, doctors, and other workers of various Christian organizations with their retirement needs. He is the author of more than 25 books and preaches regularly at Bible conferences, evangelism conferences, and churches across the nation.

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