Image: Fall fungi, Charlottesville, Virginia, October 2018
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 13:31-38.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John 13:34).
Christ gave the new commandment to his original disciples, but it did not apply only to them. It applies to all disciples in all ages. So, Paul writes to believers in Rome: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another” (Rom 13:8a). In 2 John the apostle John writes to a church, which he calls “the elect lady” (2 John 1:1), with this admonition: “And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which had from the beginning, that we love one another” (2 John 1:5). Thus, both Paul and John apply Christ’s new command not just to the original disciples but to all disciples, including ordinary believers in this age.
Jesus will later say, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
A sign that we are truly Christ’s disciples is the fact that we desire to keep his commandments, including the new commandment. Christ has given us a commandment (not a suggestion) to love one another in the same way that Christ himself has loved us. How did Christ show his love for the disciples? He laid down his life for them.
How do we obey this commandment today? I do not think one can really do this, unless he is a committed member of a local church, where he will have many opportunities for obedience to this command. It is in the church that we get to know our fellow disciples and love them in more than a hypothetical manner.
Sometimes that love is tested. The original disciples knew each well, and sometimes they had disagreements and conflicts with one another. They argued, for example, as to which of them was the greatest (cf. Mark 9:33-34).
The believers in the churches to whom John wrote also knew each other well, and they also engaged at times in conflicts that rent them asunder. In 3 John the apostle denounces an insolent man named Diotrephes who even had the audacity to expel faithful brethren from the church (see 3 John 1:9-10)!
Our obedience to this commandment is usually not tested when things are going smoothly but when we hit choppy waters.
In Galatians 5 Paul urges the saints: “by love serve one another” (v. 13), lest “ye bite and devour one another” (v. 15).
Dear brethren, let us show our love for Christ by keeping his commandments, including his new commandment to love one another.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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