Love One Another


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” (John 13:34).

Often something that is old in that it has been around a long time can become all new because of a new way in which it is treated or seen or experienced—a child’s toy, a piece of music, or a dish of food.

Jesus said he gave us a new commandment. In one sense, it was not new; it was old. His disciples had learned it before. It was already there in the Old Testament—“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). But while the idea of love in general was not new, Jesus invested it with a richer and deeper meaning.

It was new in the emphasis he gave it. Jesus brought two Old Testament passages together—the command to love your neighbor, and the command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). The whole teaching of the law and the prophets, he declares, depends upon these two aspects of the law of love (Matt. 22:37-40).

There is a human tendency to be too narrow and selective in deciding whom we should love. In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), Jesus shows that our neighbor whom we love is anyone who needs our compassion and help, irrespective of race and rank. The same story also shows that neighbor love is more than a feeling or sentiment toward others. And it is certainly more than words. Love actively seeks the good of others.

The apostle John elaborates further on the principle of neighbor love. “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:7-11). The new commandment of Jesus lies at the heart of the gospel message. It is an enlightening message of divine love bestowed on man. Being a true disciple is shown in part by whether or not we love our brother.

Perfect love was demonstrated at the cross of Christ (1 John 3:16-18). So, a disciple is to love others, not just as he loves himself, but in the same measure as Christ has loved him, from a spirit of selflessness and sacrifice. To love in deed and in truth is to love through action. It sometimes means telling the truth when it is needed, even if the truth hurts. Our love for God is proven by our obedience to him. In the same way, professing brotherly love means nothing if we fail to open our heart to a brother in need.

The very character of God is defined by love. God is love (1 John 4:7-9). It is amazing how many questions are answered by that single statement. It is the explanation of creation, of freewill, of providence, of redemption, and of the life beyond. Loving one another is one of the ways we show that we truly know God.

Dan Petty