So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
John 13:34 NLT
The NEW part of this commandment is not to “Love each other”. Even in the Old Testament, the Jewish people we instructed to love their neighbors as themselves.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
God’s voice did not change in the new testament, the message has been the same all along – it’s just that Jesus Christ came to demonstrate it fully revealed, and to open our eyes to what real love looks like, and to teach us what the Spirit of the Word of God looks like in contrast to the Letter of the Law. He came to open our eyes from a perspective of obligation and sacrifice – to a perspective of mercy, faith, and opportunity.
The NEW part of Christ’s commandment is “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” It’s about us being like Christ. — Hold on, hit the brakes, are you really saying that I need to follow in His footsteps? — Yep, I sure am, but let’s hold onto that meat for a moment while we drink some milk and prepare ourselves for a hearty meal. Let’s talk about “our way” for a moment.
You see, we can make asking us to love our neighbor easy on ourselves, because we look at the word love, examining the letter of the law, and we start to tear it down into a measuring stick where we say to ourselves, “Well, I don’t really know my neighbor or care about them, but I don’t steal from them or cause them any problems, so that’s loving in a way.”
Mankind is very good at arguing whether or not we’ve met the “requirements of the law” – we even have a lucrative profession whose whole purpose is to tear apart the wording of the law and speak for us in a court of law. But when it comes to the things that matter, it doesn’t matter if our tongues are silver enough to argue how well we measure up to the requirements. In fact, Christ expects us to be truthful and for our words to flow from our heart and from the Holy Spirit who guides and teaches us.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Matthew 10:19-20 NLT
So Christ expects us to love like He loves. He reveals something revolutionary. He wants us to be like Him. In fact, He sets the bar amazingly high, telling us to give open handedly to others without expecting payment in return, He tells us to turn the other cheek to those who hurt us, He tells us to love and forgive those who consider themselves our enemies, He tells us to not be angry with others, to not even look at someone in lust. And He does this so that if we decide to measure ourselves by the law, it should become immediately clear to us that we will fall short of perfection.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT
And it isn’t that the law itself is bad, but that man’s perspective about the law was perverted, was twisted:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple
Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
Romans 3:19-20 NLT
The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
Romans 8:3-4 NLT
He makes us right through faith.
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
Romans 3:22 NLT
And this is because He is changing us, reconciling us back to God, so that we are living for God and loving others like He demonstrated love for us.
He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:15-21 NLT
Yes, He is making us like Him. He is revealing to us this great mystery. He is restoring the relationship that is the very essence of our being alive and freed from death.
God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.
Colossians 1:25-28 NLT
So we should ask ourselves – am I following His commandment to love others like He demonstrated? Am I still a slave to sin? Am I a son being reconciled to be like Him? And I don’t have the excuse of “I can’t” to fall back on, because “He can”. The question them becomes “Do I believe? Have I fully accepted His Lordship over my life? Do I have this relationship with a living Christ who is in me?”
It’s a pretty important question, friend – one with eternal consequences. Yes, now we are past the milk and getting into the meat. Are you still a slave, or are you a son?
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
John 8:34-36 NLT
And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit. But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.
Galatians 4:28-31 NLT
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5:1, 5-5, 7-8, 13-14 NLT
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
Galatians 5:16-18 NLT
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians 5:19-25 NLT