John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Last week we started to talk about the definition of Agape love, and God’s love for us. This week, we will look at the subject of brotherly love - or love among Christians. Let’s get into the Word.
Notice in the verse above Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you.” Loving one another actually wasn’t a new commandment. It was given under the Mosaic Law (Lev 19:18). So what did Jesus mean? It was new in at least two ways: 1. It became the royal, or chief commandment. In the OT it was not the main issue. It was only one of many laws, and was not generally focused on. But now, it would be of primary concern and importance. 2. It was new, in that now the Believer would actually be able to keep it. In the OT, people were not born-again, and made new creations in Christ. They were not permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit. They were not equipped to love like that, even if they had the desire. But now, the love of God is poured out abundantly in the Believer’s heart, and the capacity to love as Jesus loves is present - though not always practiced.
Jesus also said, “Love each other, AS I have loved you.” (see also Jn 15:12, 17). In other words, to the same degree and in the same way I have loved you, love each other. This is not possible if Jesus is not living within you. You must be born-again. However, once you are converted, the ability is there, and is to be put into action.
Jesus also said, “By your love for one another, shall all men know that you are my disciples.” This is to be the tell tale sign to the world that one is a disciple of Christ, if there is genuine and sincere love for one another. As stated last week, Jesus doesn’t even want a church in existence, if it has not love (Rev 2:4-5). Not a particular day; or building; or list of do’s and don’ts - but sincere love for the brethren is what Jesus Himself said is the sign to the world of His genuine disciples.
John Newton (wrote Amazing Grace) said, “I am persuaded that love and humility are the highest attainments in the school of Christ and the brightest evidences that He is indeed our Master.” Thomas Merton wrote, “Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.”
In order to love each other to such a degree, the Christian must believe they are loved by God in that degree. Jerry Bridges writes, “Here is a spiritual principle: We cannot exercise love unless we are experiencing grace. You cannot truly love others unless you are convinced that God’s love for you is unconditional, based solely on the merit of Christ, not on your performance. Our love, either to God or to others, can only be a response to His love for us.”
The Apostle Paul writes, “Be kind and affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.” Romans 13:8-9 - “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (see also Gal 5:14).
Love fulfills the law. If we have right doctrine, and have no love, we have missed it completely. Love is the fulfillment of right doctrine. This does not mean right doctrine doesn’t matter - it matters greatly. However, if it’s truly right doctrine, it will be in love. Andrew Strom puts it this way, “If you love your ‘Truths’ more than you love people, then you are an out-and-out Pharisee. Nothing less. And you will create condemnation and death in people, rather than ‘conviction’ and LIFE.” Also, hear John MacArthur: “It is wonderful to have a high regard for the truth, but zeal for the truth must be balanced by a love for people, or it can give way to judgmentalism, harshness, and a lack of compassion.”
Love enough to speak truth - and speak the truth in love. Be kind and loving one to another. Do not hold grudges, bitterness, or unforgiveness. Do not carry offenses. Forgive and live in peace. Seek to make amends whenever possible. As St. Francis prayed, “Lord, may I seek to love, more than to be loved.” If correction has to be brought, do it based on God’s Word, and do it in a loving manner. It may be rejected, but that’s ok. Love for love’s sake. Love as God loves. Love is the high road. It is where Jesus walks. Let us walk with Him. Selah.