New Command

October 2nd, 2013 by Anthony Bosman

Last night, I was playing some board games with a few friends. Half way through, one calls me out, “Hey you can’t do that”.

“Yes I can, it’s the rule!”

“Since when?”

It got a bit confusing. Apparently we had different understandings of the rules.

I wonder how the disciples felt when Jesus announced a “new rule”? Recall His teaching:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)

Interestingly, many have noticed that this “new commandment” sounds like one that is very old. Over a thousand years earlier, Moses recorded that “you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” (Lev. 19:18)

So why does Jesus call this old command new? Let me suggest two reasons.

Firstly, it was new to the disciples. Jesus gave this new command at the last supper, when the disciples were arguing over “which of them should be considered the greatest” (Luke 22:24). Certainly, they needed to be reminded of this old command.

But secondly, and this is really exciting, there is a significant way in which the new command is more complete than the old.

Let’s unpack this.

Notice the old version–“love your neighbor as yourself”–finishes in “I am the LORD”. These last four words are significant. Our ability to love one another originates not in ourselves, but in God and our knowledge of God. This concept dates back to creation where God created us for loving relationships by creating us in His image. The only way for us to truly love another is to know and reflect the love of God.

And there’s a corollary to this truth. The more we know the love of God, the more we are able to love those around us.

Enter Christ.

Jesus is the clearest revelation to us (and the universe!) of God’s love (John 1:18). His life of service, and ultimately sacrificial death, teaches us that God values us supremely. The cross eradicates any suspicion that God is self-interested.

Thus Jesus, after living a life of service and hours before facing the cross gives a command. The idea is old: love like God. But now it has a whole new meaning: love as I have loved you.

The more I spend time in the gospel of John, the more I recognize how “new” this command is for me. Firstly, because like the disciples, I regularly need to be reminded to love others. And secondly, because as I grow in my understanding of the love of Jesus, I also grow in my realization of how radical the command to love as Jesus loves really is.

You could say it changes the game.

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