PASTOR’S CORNER, Tyler Prater, Fellowship Baptist Church, Liberal
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34–35)
It turns out that loving Jesus is the easy part. And why shouldn’t it be? We who deserved so little have received so much. We who’ve earned nothing have been given everything. We who merit only judgment have been extended total forgiveness through Him. Instead of death, life. Instead of punishment, grace. Privilege. Status. Eternity. What’s not to love here? What should be so hard about loving Jesus?
But then comes this “new commandment” that He left for His followers, less than twenty-four hours before He’d be hanging on a cross. And this commandment, oddly enough, would be the tougher one: “that you love one another.” Because what’s not to love here? In our Christian friends? In our Christian family? Well, a lot things because Christians aren’t perfect people.
But while loving Jesus is vitally, centrally important—"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30)—our love for Jesus is not what creates the most lasting impression on the people around us. The thing that does the best job of helping people see and know what He can truly do to change a person’s life is our difficult obedience to this single, new commandment: “…love one another as I have loved you.”
People in the world are accustomed to seeing relationships that don’t work. They see it at home. They see it on the job. They see it just about everywhere they go. But sadly, this same kind of breakdown occurs also among Christian believers and institutions. Often people have grown up in churches where they felt judged, inspected, measured, excluded—but not loved.
Just imagine, though, if people who almost never see actual demonstrations of sacrificial, forgiving, unselfish love could see it in real life—in us—as we relate to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Imagine what they would think. They’d started to wonder what this kind of community was rooted in. What would keep them from wanting to be part of a place where people genuinely love each other?
Outsiders are not as intrigued and impressed as we think by how well we do our worship, how well we teach our classes, or how well we proclaim the Word from our pulpits. But the assurance Jesus gives us, if we will faithfully develop and nurture this kind of love for one another, is that “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples.” Our love for each other is what will convince them.
John the apostle, the same writer who captured these words of Jesus, would later say the same thing another way: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”
That’s what people really need to see.