A New Commandment

June 24, 2019

Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:31–35

Our natural inclination is to look out for number one. Even as believers, we tend to get offended when someone takes advantage of us or tries to get ahead of us. But Jesus’ kingdom is upside down—the leader becomes the servant.

Jesus knew that His hour had come and that His remaining time with the disciples was short. At the final Passover meal that He shared with them, Jesus, God the Son, laid aside His garments, girded Himself with a towel, and began to wash His disciples’ feet.

During the meal a dispute had arisen among the disciples over which of them would be greatest in the kingdom (see Luke 22:24). As the disciples observed Jesus and wondered what He was doing, perhaps their argument died down.

Attitude of Humility

Jesus, of course, was painting a picture of our need to be cleansed by Him. But He was also setting an example for His disciples: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). The disciples esteemed the idea of ruling over others, but Jesus told them, “If you want to be great, learn to be the servant of all” (see Matt. 20:25–27). These men were going to be leaders in the church, and Jesus sought to instill this attitude of humility in their hearts.

As He taught, Jesus became troubled. “One of you,” He told His followers, “will betray Me” (John 13:21). Judas, extremely clever, had kept his agenda hidden from the other disciples. As Jesus handed a piece of bread to Judas to indicate His betrayer, Judas “went out immediately. And it was night” (John 13:30). Earlier Jesus had said, “I must work while it is day, for the night is coming” (see John 9:4). The night had arrived.

Jesus now zeroed in on what He wanted the remaining eleven to grasp: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus was telling His followers, “Serve each other as I served you tonight. Don’t fight for power. Give your lives for one another.” By this kind of love, everyone would know that they were His disciples.

Genuine Love

This has been one of the great failures of God’s people throughout the ages. There has been so much bickering and hostility in the church, even hatred at times. In seeing that behavior, many people haven’t taken Christianity seriously. In his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, renowned atheist, attacks God and the Christian faith. Sadly, a lot of his ammunition was taken from church history and the failure of Christians to love each other.

Some things we need to fight for, such as unbelief and sin, but we are never to fight each other. Even if someone won’t reciprocate our love, we need to love him or her from a distance. The world can’t argue with genuine love.

Peter, pondering Jesus’ sobering words, interrupted Him. “Lord, where are You going? Why can’t I follow You? I’m willing to lay down my life for You.” Peter meant it. But like so many of us, Peter didn’t know himself too well. “Really?” Jesus replied. “Before the night is over, you will deny that you know Me” (see John 13:36–38). The Bible warns us, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Peter thought he was strong, but he was weak. Only when we recognize that we are weak and totally dependent on Christ will we be able to love Him, and others, as He asks us to.

Servant of All

The world tells us to love ourselves. But what it doesn’t tell us is that selfishness is miserable. We are to love each other, to serve each other—even to the point of laying down our lives. When we serve God and serve His people, we find joy, peace, and fulfillment. When we lose our life, we find it.

Is there anyone toward whom you have anger, hurt, or unforgiveness? Cry out to God to teach you how to be the servant of all. Like Peter did, we need His strength to be holy. As God works in you, the world will know that you are a Christian by the love you have for others.