I’ve been super inactive on here the last semester, and for that I apologize. This is an adaptation of a sermon I wrote for my final in Biblical Preaching last semester. Hope God uses it for someone else too.
Once upon a time…I went to this terrible awful place called public high school. It wasn’t actually that bad… When I was in high school, we had this thing called “Project Graduation.” We would basically go from graduation, to dinner, and then all come back to the school for a bunch of games and a photobooth and food and just being kind of crazy with our class for the last time. The goal of it was to keep us from going out and partying by having something for us to do. The end cap of the night was an auction, and we would spend points we’d earned all year while working sports events or doing various community service projects. I got some random little stuff, a shelf unit, and a cheap laptop… but my absolute favorite thing was a kindle fire. I love to read. I honestly don’t really feel like myself this semester because I don’t have enough free time to do personal reading.
As much as I love to read, I also love just learning little somewhat useless facts. I’m going to combine those two loves and share some random facts about books with you. On amazon, when you search books about sex, there are 300,000. There are 500,000 about Christianity. There are 200,000 about money. And there are over 600,000 books about love on amazon. People are looking for love. They’re looking for an explanation; they’re looking to find love; they’re looking to learn how to give love… Society is looking to fill the need for love in their lives. Thankfully, Christ has made it really clear what His disciples need to do about that.
Let’s look at John 13: 34-35. Jesus is talking to his disciples around the table where they’d dined together, in the room where He’d washed their feet, and at some point in the day before they went to the garden where He would get that traitorous kiss on the cheek. He said, “I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.”
Just looking at that it may seem like it’s simple, but when it comes to our day to day lives it’s not always so easy to put it into practice. So let’s break this down a little bit, because obviously this was important to Christ, so it must be important to us.
Jesus starts off saying that this is a NEW commandment. That’s not because this is a new concept or anything, but because it is for a new object and a new measure.
So, first, let’s look at WHO this command is saying to love, this new object. The reason this is a new commandment specifically and not just another commandment, is that we’ve already seen this one, and the disciples were familiar with it already in their Jewish culture. He’s alluding to Leviticus 19:18, where the Israelites were told to “love their neighbor.” Now, in their day and age, the Jews had watered down “love your neighbor” enough that they were able to pick and choose who they wanted to love. But Christ changed it. He switched it up from just “your neighbors,” which was more easily twisted, to loving everyone who falls under the umbrella of “one another.”
Now, we have to realize that he’s sitting in a room with his disciples, and the immediate “one another” was the other disciples in the room that day. It seems a little bit odd to tell His disciples to love the other disciples there with them at first. But if we as believers do not love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, how on earth can we then go out and love anyone else? We have to start at home, and make sure our immediate family is healthy before we can go out and start loving everyone else.
Okay, so “one another” was this new object. But now we need to figure out the “new measure” I mentioned a minute ago… So let’s look at HOW this command is saying to love.
The “measure” of this love is “as I have loved you.” Jesus isn’t saying to love someone within our own capacities. We are fickle with our love; we are selfish. Humans as a whole love conditionally. As hard as we try, there’s no such thing as unconditional love within a human heart. That’s not the kind of love Christ is talking about. He’s talking about striving to always pour out the holy and pure love that we receive from Heaven. He’s talking about letting the Spirit guide us into being as selfless and caring and sacrificial as He was.
Earlier in this chapter, Jesus showed them a new standard of love by washing the disciples’ feet and completely humbling himself in a very tangible way. He didn’t just talk about it and expect them to get it…He got down on that dirty floor with his bowl of water and washed their dirty, sandy, tired feet. He did the servants job. He gave these baffled men a glimpse of the love he wanted them to give. The fact that he had just done this for them made his words even more impactful to them in this situation. Obviously, we know that Christ then went on to show them, and the rest of the world, His love in the most absolute way possible, but the disciples didn’t know what was coming yet.
Trying to love like Jesus is asking doesn’t mean you need to go find yourself some nasty feet to wash today, and it doesn’t mean you need to die for someone today, or maybe ever in your life. It means to seek the highest good for another. Agape love sacrifices for others. It is an act of will, a decision, not trying to find some fuzzy feeling for someone. It is a commitment. This Good Love, capital G, is not about your needs or my needs; it’s about God’s will. God is Good, and God is Love, and His will is for us to give this Good Love to one another. When Jesus says, “as I have loved you,” He sets Himself up as the standard by which His disciples are to forever measure their love for one another.
Now we’ve covered WHO we are supposed to love, and HOW to love them. But realistically, I know you’re probably asking WHY you’re supposed to go through life throwing this holy love at people.
That answer is pretty simple: this is a commandment from Christ. It’s not a suggestion or something we just need to think about. He’s saying, “this you have to do for me” because how we love directly effects how He looks to the world. And this loving isn’t some fuzzy feeling; this is Love the verb.
It’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t say that we had to like everyone. You don’t have to like someone to love someone. I spent the majority of my life loving but strongly disliking my father. We had an incredibly tumultuous relationship. I won’t go into details here. But there was never a doubt in my mind that I love him. I always have and I always will. But the more I figure out how to love without liking, and try to figure out this Christ-like love towards him, the more I am able to like him, and see that God’s been working in him in the last few years. You won’t like everyone. That’s life. But you’re still asked to show Christ’s love to them.
To demonstrate that we are believers and shine His light, we’ve got to show this kind of intentional, intense love for one another. Nothing will surprise and interest this broken world as much as a group that can love totally and beautifully. It’s not always a big complicated thing to love properly. Vocalize what you’re appreciative of without including “but” or a negative as well. Learn to seek out another believe and speak encouraging words. Hug someone. Find ways to serve your church more or other believers somehow.
After you leave, you’ve got to go finish exams or pack up and move out and you’ll probably be pretty stressed. That stress means you might get in a fight with your boyfriend, or your mom, or your roommate. Instead of exhibiting that Christ-love, you will show anger. You may get road rage driving back home or be stuck on a plane next to the worst person ever. You might want to give this person a piece of your mind…
These are all natural fleshly impulses that we all feel. But God is calling us to live a supernatural life that is dependent upon His strength. John is informing you and me that we can’t live the Christian life on our own for even an hour. We are weak and susceptible to sin. The only way that we can exude love is by constantly abiding in Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit. “Love one another as I have loved you.” That has always been Christ’s desire for us. And if we can live out this love in our daily lives, maybe people won’t need to write so many books about love. Maybe they’ll see that the only book about love that they need has already been written, by the One with the love they need.