“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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” — John 13:34–35
It’s funny that Jesus calls this a new commandment. He’s not misleading us, as the words “love your neighbor” are not explicitly in the Ten Commandments. However, this new commandment as Jesus calls it is not at all new as it was already understood well by scholars of the time.
[Jesus] said to [the lawyer], “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” — Luke 10:26–28
Still missing how this is a new commandment
So why does Jesus call loving our neighbors, loving others, a new commandment? What is the reason for this redundancy? After a weekend of housewarming parties, out-of-town guests, making new friends and enjoying old friends, I realize loving people isn’t easy. In fact, it’s the toughest, most straightforward thing I believe we can do on this earth. You might argue it’s loving God, but for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s people for now. It’s not because people are evil, stubborn, mean, or anything like that. No, it’s because I myself am imperfect. It’s because loving others, this new commandment, is important enough that I need to be constantly reminded to get out of my own way. Daily, multiple times a day, I need to remember to leave my pride at the door, so that I can be able to love those around me.
The new commandment that isn’t new
The new commandment is just that important. Jesus knew that. It’s I who has a hard time understanding His foresight. But, I type as if I should be surprised by this. The fact is that Jesus issued this new command right in front of the people who knew Him most intimately on this earth. I have to believe that Jesus knew even these, the ones who would understand Him the best needed this reminder as well. And it wasn’t just any reminder, but it was a very strong one at that. What should that say to us, then?
Before launching into one of the greatest expositions on love (see John 14 and 15), Jesus issued a new commandment for all to hear, that we are to love one another just as He had loved. These are strong words for a man who issued few directives. However, we cannot ignore the levity which He bestowed on this single phrase. We cannot continue to overlook the daily significance these words, this new commandment must have for us all. We cannot proceed loving ignorantly, as ignorance is no means of innocence. But in the end, we will find satisfaction and fulfillment like none other. Are you ready for that, friend?