Love can be a very complicated thing. On this particular Sunday, which is Mother’s Day, we not only honor our mothers and celebrate the memory of those whose faith is now sight, we also take advantage of a moment to hear a timely reminder from Jesus. I sense it has been expressed through the course of this observance of worship. It most certainly has been expressed in the chorus we’ve sung. How in this world will this world know that we are Christians? The chorus acknowledged: “by our love.”
It’s true. The world will know we are Christians by our love for one another. It comes right from Jesus’ mouth, the Founder of the whole movement and the Epitome of love. In fact, according to the Gospel of John, this is the only commandment Jesus explicitly identified for His disciples, which includes you and me by the way, and insisted that it be kept. This is a “new command” (John 13:34). What’s new about it? Love has always been around. I can’t think of a time when love wasn’t around in some form or fashion.
I got to thinking yesterday about all the songs I know that have “love” in their titles. OK you know what’s coming. Remember I listen to the oldies station. Remember all those songs from way back when? I can hear Diana Ross and The Supremes singing: “Baby Love”; “Stop in the Name of Love”; “You Can’t Hurry Love.” How about The O’Jays and “Love Train”? The Beatles sang, “All You Need Is Love.” One song marked Elvis Presley’s return in 1972, “Burning Love.” And then, “What the World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love.” Let me toss in at least one country hit from my day way back when. Ronnie Millsap singing “Pure Love.” Long before there was a Billboard chart ranking the hits, there was love. During Jesus’ earthly life there was love. After Jesus ascended to the Father, there was love. Pior to Jesus becoming flesh, there was love. Love has always been around.
So why is this a “new command”? Because the people of God did not have love for one another like they should have had. This phrase, “new command,” appears only four times in the whole of the Bible and all of them are in John’s writings — here in John 13 and then in 1 John 1:7, 1 John 1:8, and 2 John 1:5. All of them are in the context of love. These words in John 13 serve as a bridge, connecting a great word on greatness — expressed in an humble action of Jesus, washing the dust off His disciples’ feet there in the Upper Room on the Thursday evening before He was crucified the next day — with another great word, one of farewell and encouragement to His disciples. On this bridge He laid it out for them. He basically said, “I’m giving you a new commandment, which really isn’t new, but it is. You, who are My disciples, love each other. You, who believe in Me, love each other. You, who are My followers, love each other. You, who are members of My church, love each other.”