Jesus gives His followers a new Commandment. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 14.34) This is a dramatic moment. Jesus is not just giving some pastoral advice. As devout Jews His followers were already under the 10 Commandments. Five of these specify how Gods’ people were to love one another by not stealing, lying or harming others. Something special is going on here. Jesus is stepping into His divine role and making a new Covenant that alters the Covenant of Moses. The old Covenant was with the whole Hebrew people. The new Covenant of Jesus is with a community of His disciples. It is with individuals who put their trust in Him personally. This is not an academic thing. This is a personal Covenant relationship with Jesus and with others who believe in Him. Christians are a covenant community of love.
1. Love means extending yourself for othersWe often use the word “love” carelessly. Jesus is teaching His followers a new definition of “love”. There was in fact a new Greek word “agape” that is used primarily in the New Testament to describe the self-sacrificial love Jesus modeled. Christian love is about serving the deepest emotional and physical needs of the other person. This is very different from our ‘love of ice cream’. When we say we love ice cream we are describing what we want to get for ourselves. This is selfish love or desire. The Christian Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck defined Christian love as “extending yourself for the other person”. Jesus wanted this kind of self-less love to be the sign of a Christian community. Deep down inside many people want to belong to a community with this kind of caring love even more than they want forgiveness and the hope of eternal spiritual life. This deep desire for intimacy with God and others is what Jesus built His church on.
2. Love is a sign of the presence of God