One Difficult Command: John 13:31-38

Focus Passage: John 13:31-38 (NIV)

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

Read John 13:31-38 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During the supper Jesus shared with His disciples on the night of His arrest, He shares with them a profound idea that might sound obvious on the surface, but it has a slight twist that makes it unique. At this “Last Supper”, Jesus gives the disciples a new command.

John tells us that while they were together after Judas Iscariot had left, Jesus told them, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (v. 34-35)

On the surface, this sounds like Jesus simply is restating the “Love your neighbor as yourself” commandment He had shared earlier in His ministry as one of the top two commandments of the law. But loving one another is different from loving your neighbor.

Loving your neighbor could be understood as loving those who live near you, loving the strangers you pass by on the street, or even loving that annoying person who works near you at the office. In essence, these are people who you only casually know at best, and you unlikely would be friends with them if it were not for the geographical connection.

Loving one another is the opposite side of this coin. In this statement, Jesus commands His followers to love those they are close to, like those who are part of their family, friends, and church group. In some ways this is easier, but the challenge here is that the closer you get to know someone, the less of a mask they are able to put up, and the more you really get to know who they are. If you find something that you don’t like about them, is your response going to be breaking the friendship, or is it one that displays love and/or forgiveness? The answer is very dependent on the situation, but when in doubt, we should err on the side of showing love even if the relationship needs to end.

But in this command is also the command to love those who call themselves followers. This might be the hardest challenge of all. When we look at the broad group of people who identify themselves as “Christians”, there is very little that we could call united. There are “Christians” who hold to almost every possible belief and ideology that exists today. Sadly, the one thing that was suppose to unify us apart from a belief in Jesus is our love – for each other and for others – and this is more than simply tolerating those who believe differently than us.

Jesus’ single command for His church was to be known as the most loving place anyone could go – and while being loving does not mean ignoring the truth or discounting sin, it does mean caring for the individual in spite of the sin and helping lift them into a better place than they were before. It also means forgiving even if the other person doesn’t deserve it. With a love like this, we can accurately represent Jesus in our world today.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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