by Tim Howard
In the Bible, the New Testament records 50+ scriptures that include the phrase “One Another!” Here’s a sampling: People are told to “Be devoted to one another”, ”Honor one another above yourselves”, “Accept one another”, “Care for each other”, “Serve one another”, “Don’t judge one another”, “Be patient with one another”, “Forgive each other”, “Encourage one another”, “Confess your sins to one another”, “Pray for one another”, and the list goes on…
One of the verses found in John 13:34 is the overarching statement that Jesus gives to his disciples and could be used as a summary for all the other teachings. It says: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you…”
This statement wasn’t new in the sense that it had never been spoken before but it was new because it was founded upon and motivated by something totally different. In the Old Testament this commandment was based upon the Law. It was something required and mandated. Something you had to do, ought to do and should do. As good as that may be, the new commandment Jesus gave was based upon gratitude and not duty. People were encouraged to love each other because Jesus had loved them. They could extend mercy, grace and kindness not because it was mandated but because they were recipients of God’s mercy, grace and kindness. They freely received so they could freely and gratefully give.
A Biblical Commandment is like a road map. It provides information that will lead you to God’s provision and protection when you follow it. For you and I to experience a full flow of God’s life, we can’t divorce ourselves from this commandment, which involves loving people. If you say you love God and yet treat people like dirt, you deceive yourself. In actuality, your spiritual progress will be revealed in the way you relate to others. Not just your immediate family but also those you encounter on your daily journey.
Loving people our way may be attractive but loving people God’s way will always be more challenging. Jesus said it’s easy to love people who are lovable. Anyone can do that! But what about the people, who complain, criticize, whine, talk too much and don’t listen? What about the sarcastic, cynical, crude and intolerant? Here’s where you need an extra dose of grace. It’s not as easy as you may think!
Everyone has his or her own idiosyncrasies, quirks and odd nuances. John Ortberg in his recently published book says: “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them.” In other words, we are all difficult to love at times yet we all need to be loved by someone.
To love people the way Jesus loves each of us means we will have to sacrifice something. You may have to sacrifice some of your time to serve others. It may cost you something in a monetary way to help one another like it cost the Good Samaritan. You may be required to sacrifice your opinion or sacrifice some sleep in order to help others but what is that when compared to the sacrifice Jesus made for you on the cross.
What might happen if we all take this commandment to heart? What if our love becomes more than a feeling that is rooted in the emotions? What will happen if we really accept one another - serve one another - stop judging one another and forgive each other? What if Jesus becomes our prime example and we emulated Him on a consistent basis? Why don’t we try it and find out?