John 13: 31-35
This text presents Jesus’ love command: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another” (John 13:34). The setting follows Jesus washing the disciple’s feet and Judas’ departure to betray Jesus. An early commandment is found in Leviticus 19:18. The instruction there is to “…love your neighbor as yourself.” The commandment to love your neighbor is also found in Matthew 22:34–40 and in Luke’s story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29–37). John takes the focus from loving neighbor to loving one’s community of disciples. Jesus is talking with his disciples about loving one another. The gospel writer is urging his church members to love one another.
The instruction to love one another is the primary commandment in the Gospel of John. The writer heightens the importance of the command by placing it at the end of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus embodied God’s love throughout his ministry. Jesus knows of his approaching death. He urgently needs the disciples to understand they are expected to show the same mutual loving relationships in their lives and ministry. Jesus modeled the type of love he expects of them when he washed the disciples’ feet. Humble, servant ministry glorifies God’s loving relationship with all people.
Jesus does not lessen the call to love one’s neighbors; he expands on it. Jesus expects the disciples’ love for one another to equal the loving relationship between God and Jesus. He tells the disciples how to measure their success. People will recognize Jesus’ disciples by the way they are in loving relationship with one another.
While loving one’s neighbors is important, it is essential to love one’s companions. This may seem a simple distinction; however, loving people we know well can be difficult. Neighbors are more distant than friends, colleagues, church members, or family. It is often more difficult to love the ones we know well. We know them at their best and at their worst. We know their faults and their giftedness.
The commandment to love one another has implications for us as disciples and for our church community. Imagine if we could genuinely live this love commandment. Invite People to Christ could happen as people see our loving relationships with one another. People might want to know more about this group of people who serve with gracious servant ministries. Our mission statement would be obvious in how we live daily. We would proclaim Jesus Christ through our loving relationships with one another and with those we meet. Our communities would be full of joy, hope, love, and peace. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35)