"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35 ESV
Before this passage, Jesus had just completed the humble task of washing the feet of his disciples. In doing this, he demonstrated his love for them. Jesus then proceeds to repeat his "new" command. By new, he meant renewal, or as a reminder, not as in something different. You may recall, Jesus' conversation with the young man in Matthew 22:36-40, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." The command to love was not new, but the culmination of all of the Old Testament instructions. Christ then reminds them of God's love, the reason for their ministry, and preparing them for the dark days ahead when he would no longer be there to lead and guide them in person. The love he had shown them during his ministry, they would now need to have for each other. In the outward demonstration of this love for each other, they would shine as an example to the world.
The followers of Christ have grown from a dozen disciples to 2.3 billion. While numbers may change, this command never changes. We are to love one another, plain and simple. Unfortunately, the church universal has allowed theology, political parties, race, sexual orientation, and petty differences to separate us. When we permit these divisions, we fail to display our love for each other, our love for God, and we fail to be the examples to the world Christ desires. If this is Christianity, then we have nothing to offer them. They are already familiar with anger, distrust, and heartache. More than any words we say, our actions toward each other speak volumes.
Dear God, thank you for your love! Even when we don't deserve it, you continually shower us with your love. We admit we have failed to love each other as we should, forgive us we pray. Help us mend those wounds that separate us as your body. Let every word we say, and every action we take, be a shining example to others of your love. In Christ Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Hackett, Conrad, and David McClendon. “World's Largest Religion by Population Is Still Christianity.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 31 May 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/05/christians-remain-worlds-largest-religious-group-but-they-are-declining-in-europe/.