Love One Another (John 13:34, 35)
Topic: John Passage: John 13:34–13:35
Love One Another
John 13:34, 35
(One Body: Love One Another)
August 3rd, 2014
I. Community Rules
Did you know from 2000 to 2010, the Town of Buckeye (now the city of Buckeye) grew by 678%, from 6500 people to almost 51,000? And of course in the last four years, that growth has continued.
Now, you might also know that most of that growth is what is called “Master-Planned Growth”, which means that, from the beginning, developers lay out every feature that will eventually go into a particular neighborhood: homes, schools, roads, shopping, fire stations, business parks, walking paths, etc. Buckeye currently has around seven master-planned communities with almost twenty more in the works.
Now if you live in a master-planned community, then you know that there are not only plans drawn up for where people will live on a particular street, but there are also plans for how people will live once they move in.
These guidelines are typically called CC&R’s, or “Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions”
When you boil it down, what these CC&R’s do is regulate the way that the people in a community live together. They are community rules. But almost every one of these rules could be classified as a restriction, that is, a rule designed to limit one individual for the sake of other individuals.
For example, in certain neighborhoods, you can’t have a car parked in your front yard, or, as was common in my last neighborhood, up on block in your front yard. You’re also limited from erecting certain things on your property, like a large statue of Elvis in your front yard, or a four story playhouse in your backyard.
This morning and this month I want to talk about this same theme, about living in community. But we’re going to do this by looking at God’s word to us in Scripture, because the community we’re talking about is the only true “Master” Planned community, since it's been designed by the only true Master, Jesus Christ. That community is, of course, the “church”.
But what are the rules for this community? Are there covenants, conditions, and restrictions that apply to this community? Well, this morning, we are going to discover something surprising. We are going to hear directly from the Master himself about our community rules. Or I should say “rule”.
Turn with me to John 13. Let’s discover this ultimate principle together.
II. The Preceding Context (John 13:31-33)
John 13; let’s begin in verse 31, since verses 31-33 really set up the scene for us. Listen:
When he [that is, when Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’
Okay, where and when are we? Well, we know from the beginning of this chapter that Jesus is eating the Passover meal together with His disciples. We also know that Judas has just left the house where they are eating in order to betray Jesus.
But why, at this incredibly depressing moment in Jesus’ ministry, does Jesus utter these words, “Now is the Son of Man glorified”? What we see when the narrative continues in chapter 18 is that the events have been set in motion that will lead to Jesus’ excruciating death on the cross, but beyond that to His resurrection, and beyond that, to His exaltation and return to the Father’s side.
That's what Jesus is talking about here. And notice that He refers to the coming events as if they had already taken place and Jesus has been glorified. Jesus speaks this way because He knows that God’s perfect plan to rescue mankind will take place exactly as it has been planned. God will be glorified.
But, do you see the shift in tone in verse 33? Jesus knowing what all of this will mean, begins to comfort His disciples. “Little children…I won’t be with you much longer….you cannot come where I am going, not yet at least.” He is speaking of a time when He will be absent. In fact, it is the very same time that we are in right now.
Now, I want you to keep this context in mind. Jesus is beginning to comfort His disciples in light of His coming death, resurrection, and departure. So what will He say? What words of comfort will He give them?
III. The New Community Rule (John 13:34, 35)
Look at verses 34 and 35.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Isn’t this interesting. In order to comfort them about His departure, or at least prepare them in light of His departure, he gives them what He calls “a new commandment”.
Now remember the gravity of the situation. The Master that they have been following for three and half years is not only going to leave, but He will suffer a gruesome death on His way out. He will rise victorious, but He will return to the heavenly Father not long after. Their entire world is about to be turned upside down.
It would be easy for them to run away. It might be that some will try to assume control of the movement. It might be that others will become embittered and critical. Jesus knows this.
In chapter 14 he will go on to tell them that even though He is leaving, they will not be forgotten. In fact, He is going to prepare a place for them (14:2). And until them, they will have another Helper, the Spirit of Truth (14:7). But it's here in 13:34, that we see how this Spirit will be manifest in their life together.
In the Master-planned community that is the church, there is ultimately only one rule for our life together: love one another.
Way of Grace Church, God has not left us in the dark when it comes to our life together. Just as He cared about these first followers, our Master cares deeply about our relationships with one another. But what is guiding our relationships? Let’s just look at the parts of Jesus’ commandment in order to better understand and better apply His words.
Think first with me about this word “love”.
As these disciples came together, as they labored together, as they worshiped together, there could have easily been others ideas in their minds to describe how they related to one another. “Cooperate with each other. Be respectful and courteous to one another. Tolerate one another.” Almost sounds like a list you might find posted at some corporate office.
But no, even though those are good rules, Jesus gives them a directive that takes everything to a new level: love one another.
But is that word the one word that guides your outlook? Is love at the forefront of your mind when you come on Sundays, when you come for a Growth Group, when we eat together, when you see a brother or sister in some other setting? Is love the community rule that motivates you?
You see, unlike the rules that govern most master planned communities, Jesus’ commandment is a rule designed, not to limit, but to empower an individual for the sake of other individuals. It directs not according to what we should not do, or cannot do, but what we should and can do. This rule forces us to get our eyes off of ourselves and on to the needs of others.
You know sometimes the church falls into the trap of catering to the “come and get” mindset, instead of encouraging the “come and give” kind of heart that Jesus is describing. We often emphasize the programs designed to meet your needs, we often dangle the perks out in front. Don’t get me wrong, I hope that when we gather together each of us is extremely encouraged and blessed. But we will never know the fullness of joy that comes from living in God’s family until we come together with this love one another mindset.
B. “Just as”
But it would also be too easy just to leave at this; to simply say, “love one another”.
It would be too easy because all of us, if this is all we heard, would simply define love in whatever way best suited our own desires. But Jesus is clear here, isn’t He? “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
Our love cannot be defined “just as” we see fit, but “just as” Jesus has defined love according to His own character and conduct. The love that is our ultimate community rule must look to Jesus for its direction and design.
But what would the disciples have understood when Jesus said, “love one another, just as I have loved you?” Well, we could probably look to many episodes from Jesus’ ministry with and to His followers for examples of how He loved them, but there is one clear example right here in the immediate context. Look back up to verse 4:
[Jesus] rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. [jump down to verse 12] 12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
You see, the disciples had just received an incredible lesson in love, and now Jesus was calling them once again to follow that example. Notice the nature of this love. It is not a love that suits our desires and wants. It is a love that put the needs of others before our own. A love that is willing to be humbled in order to serve.
Once commentator says this about this community rule of love that Jesus gives: "Whereas the Old Testament demanded that men should love their neighbors as themselves, the New Law is that they should love the brethren better than themselves, and die for their friends."
That last bit there reminds us that we must look forward to see the ultimate example of Jesus’ love. You see, Jesus will repeat this new commandment in chapter 15, verses 12 and 13. Listen to what He says: 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.
John would later confirm this in a letter to other followers of Christ: We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (I John 3:16)
If we are to look for the measure of love, we must look to the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is where we see love giving of itself, despite the cost. Brothers and sisters, is this how we are loving one another?
But notice something else here. Notice that the love of Jesus is active, not reactive, that is, His love initiated; He washed their feet. They were not expecting that. And more importantly, He went to the cross for them. In fact, the Gospel of John begins with the Son of God taking on human flesh. The incarnation was God-initiated.
I point that out because it is so easy to believe that loving one another simply means being loving when we find ourselves in situations that call us to react.
Is your idea of loving one another simply giving when asked to give? Or is it giving whenever you see a need? Do you only pray for you brothers and sisters when they ask you to pray, or do you pray for them all the time? Do you only give encouraging words when someone comes to you with a struggle, or do you seek to encourage a brother or sister, even when they seem to be doing well? When you are at odds with a brother or sister, do you wait for them to fix things, or are do you take the initiative to love them, just as Christ has loved you?
But there’s something else about this call to love that we need to see. Jesus’ call us to “love one another” is...a command. It’s not a suggestion. Not a tip or technique or tool. It’s a command.
We need to emphasize this because it’s easy for us to get confused about love. Why? Because, very often, we equate love with how we feel. Sometimes we believe that we can only love one another when we like someone, or, at the very least, when we don’t dislike someone.
But in many cases, we find ourselves feeling all sorts of things toward one another. Appreciation. Anger. Jealousy. Respect. Indifference. Annoyance. Connectedness. Confusion. But that’s just the reality of any relationship, isn't it.
But as we see here, none of those feelings change the fact that Jesus Christ, the Master, has commanded us to love one another. We cannot disregard a command from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords simply because we don’t like the way a brother or sister does this or that. Or because we don’t feel like loving them.
We should be praying that our hearts would be filled with feelings of compassion and concern. But even when they are not, we must act toward our brothers and sisters the very way we would act if our hearts WERE filled with such feelings.
Remember what C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity: The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find out one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.
Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments”
But why does Jesus call this a “new” commandment? As Jews, the Law called these men to love their fellow Jew. So why was this “new”.
Well, the newness comes from the place of Christ in this command. Not only was the love of Jesus the standard for this commandment, but it was Jesus who put these men with “one another” in the first place. You see, this was a new commandment because this was a new community; a new community that shared new life in Jesus Christ.
Why do we need to point this out? Because none of us will be able to live by this rule unless we have become new creatures in Christ, unless we have been made part of this new community by being born again into the family of God. Because Jesus died on that cross for His people, each of us can now live for His people with the new heart Jesus purchased with His own blood. It is only this new heart that comes through faith in Christ that allows any of us to obey the “new commandment”.
Have you responded to the love of God in Christ? The love that God offers you this morning. A love that forgives. A love that restores. A love that reconnects you with your Creator?
IV. All People Will Know
Now notice how Jesus emphasizes the importance of this command in verse 35. He connects our love for one another with our witness to “all people”...By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
You see our love for one another is so critical, not simply because it regulates our relationships, but more so, because it reveals our Redeemer. Way of Grace, what do we want to be known for in this community? Is it our love for one another?
Listen, we could have the slickest outreach in the world? We could have the most compassionate service ministries in town? We could have the biggest rec center. We could have the most cutting-edge service, or the most precise theology, or even the most people sharing their faith. But if we do not have love for one another, to whom will we be pointing?
When we love one another, we point back to the Lord of love through our love for one another; and that love has a way of drawing people in. People are looking to be loved. They are looking for something real; something genuine. They are desperate to see people who really love one another.
The church is a community planned by the Master himself. And it is this Master, Jesus, who gives himself as a standard for us, so that we can know how to treat one another as brother and sisters.
Over the next three weeks, we are going to keep looking at Jesus. We are going to unpack this command to love one another. It is our community rule. But as we’ll see, the Apostle Paul wants to show us some of the different ways in which this new commandment is worked out. But in keeping with Jesus' words, He will always keep our eyes on Jesus and the example of His love.
Brothers and sisters, may it be our desire, may it be our great joy to obey the words of Jesus and love one another. Let’s pray and ask God to empower us to do just that.