The Jewish people had lots of commandments in their scriptures. There were the “big ten,” but hundreds of others as well, plus all the extra, outside-the-scriptures commandments that helped them keep the in-the-scriptures commandments.
Imagine the sense of burden on the final night of Jesus’ life when he gave his closest disciples one more commandment. Or more accurately, a new commandment.
The disciples probably braced themselves for whatever extra rule Jesus might pile onto the lengthy list they were already trying to follow. But what Jesus did was render all of the old commandments obsolete* by issuing one great big new replacement commandment…
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
– John 13:34-35 NIV
That’s it. Just love each other. A lot!
Love each other in the same way that Jesus has loved you. That’s an overflowing kind of love. And while it sounds impossible to keep, Jesus doesn’t issue impossible commands.
In the next few chapters, Jesus would issue a rather special promise. He would go away, but in doing so, he would be asking the Father to send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who himself is God and therefore is love, into their lives and ours.
So when love is hard… when love seems impossible… you’ll have to rely on God inside you to help you love those around you the way he has loved you.
Churches can be known for many things. Nice buildings. Powerful preaching. Great music. Polished weekend productions. Political involvement. But Jesus threw down a different challenge.
Love each other as much as Jesus loved you and the world will know you belong to him. His movement, back then and today as well, would be known as a movement of love.
If you keep that one commandment, you will definitely have mastered the spirit of all of the others.
So, whom do you need to love?
* If the word “obsolete” seems strong to you, consider checking out Andy Stanley’s book, Irresistible. The whole Bible is God’s Word, but as Jesus’ followers, we are a people of the new covenant, ratified by the cross and resurrection of Jesus.