12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus’ command is radical, but it is not new. In chapter 14, verses 34 and 35, Jesus already clearly commanded his disciples to love one another. But here he repeats it for us. That tells me that this command is very much important to what Jesus wants us to do as Christians. And, since he told us that this is his command immediately after telling us to obey his commands to abide in his love, this command is even more clearly important.
Do you want to grow as a Christian? Do you want to be fruitful as a Christian? Do you want to abide in Jesus’ love as a Christian? If so, you must obey his commands. Jesus says that his command is this: love one another.
The problem with most believers is not that we do not know that Jesus has called us to love one another. I’d suppose that none of you are surprised that Jesus called us to love one another. None of you fell out of your chairs and hit the floor out of shock at the prospect that Jesus might actually tell his followers to love one another. This is old faithful doctrine here. But the problem that many of us has is that we do not know how to show love to one another.
So Jesus gives his disciples, and all of us, a perfect example to follow if you want to know what it looks like to truly love another person. Jesus tells us to love others as he has loved us. Then he makes it clear. No one ever shows any greater love than when he lays down his life for his friends.
What is Jesus driving at? How does he define love? What is different in the way that Jesus tells us to love and the way that the world around us describes love? Let’s take those questions in reverse order. What’s the difference in Jesus’ kind of love and the world around us?
The world around us thinks of love as a strongly felt emotion. When people in the world describe being in love, they most often describe how another person makes them feel good. They say things like, “She just makes me so happy; I can’t live without her; I can’t imagine how empty life would be without him by my side; or she completes me.” Such an emotionally and selfish form of love is easy to fall into and out of simply based on our circumstances or our body chemistry. The difference between this and what Jesus said is clear.
Jesus describes love as totally self-sacrificial. He points to love as the kind of commitment to another’s good in which you are willing to sacrifice anything and everything for that other’s well-being. Jesus describes love as a willingness to lay down your life, not simply feeling good about another person. HE describes love as dying for others, and then he demonstrates it by laying down his own life for the sake of sinners. Love may contain emotion, in fact it generally should, but love is far deeper, far more concrete than simply feeling happy when you are near someone.
What then is Jesus driving at? Jesus is driving at an understanding of and acting out of love that is based on a commitment to the good of another. He wants his disciples to live out love for one another. He is not saying that we must always feel giddy when around each other. He is, however, saying that we need to value one another so much that we are willing to give up our own lives for the sake of the good of our fellow disciples.
And thus we see what it is that Jesus is calling us to. He wants us to love one another as true friends. He then shows us that loving one another as friends requires that we willingly sacrifice our own wants, our own comforts, our own desires, perhaps even our own lives for the sake of the good of others.
Now, let me try to illustrate so that there is no confusion. A wife allowing her husband to abuse her is not showing him love. Though she may be sacrificing her happiness and safety, she is not doing him good. In fact, a wife who allows her husband to abuse her is harming him as she is allowing him to sin against God. However, a wife who stays at her husband’s side for years as he battles cancer is showing love. She may have desires and goals and ambitions that she puts on hold, but she lays them aside for his good, for his comfort, for his security.
Do you see the difference? Love is self-sacrificial, but always for the good of another. And we must think in long-term, spiritual good. Loving parents discipline their children. Loving friends sometimes say no to their friends. But we never act selfishly toward someone we are loving. We give our all for their good.
So, do you want to live in fellowship with Jesus? Do you want to abide in his love? Learn how to show true love for other believers. Learn to love sacrificially just like Jesus.