When Jesus gave the new commandment to his disciples, it was a pivotal moment in his ministry. This commandment, which is recorded in John 13:34-35, reads as follows: “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.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” But why did Jesus feel the need to give this commandment? Let’s explore some possible reasons.
Love as a defining characteristic
Throughout his ministry, Jesus emphasized the importance of love. He taught that all of the commandments could be summed up in two: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40).
However, in John 13:34-35, Jesus takes this teaching even further by explicitly commanding his disciples to love one another in the same way that he had loved them. This was a radical departure from the norms of society at the time, which often emphasized tribalism and exclusion rather than love and inclusion.
Unity among believers
Another reason why Jesus may have given this commandment is to promote unity among his followers. The early church was made up of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures who may not have otherwise interacted with each other.
By emphasizing the importance of loving one another, Jesus was encouraging these new believers to put aside their differences and work together for a common goal. This theme is echoed throughout the New Testament in passages such as Romans 12:10 (“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor”) and Ephesians 4:2 (“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love”).
A witness to the world
Finally, Jesus may have given this commandment as a witness to the world. By loving one another, the disciples would be demonstrating to others what it truly meant to follow Jesus.
This is reflected in John 13:35, where Jesus says that “By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” In a world that often values power, prestige, and wealth, the radical love of the early church would have been a powerful witness to those around them.
In conclusion, there are many reasons why Jesus may have given his disciples the new commandment to love one another. Whether it was to promote unity among believers, emphasize love as a defining characteristic of his followers, or provide a witness to the world, this commandment remains just as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago. As we seek to follow Jesus in our own lives, let us remember the importance of loving one another as he loved us.