Whenever we dig into the Scriptures to gain understanding and grow closer to God, we will take a quick look at three key things:
- what it says about the person and character of God
- what the surrounding context and other scriptures say
- some way we can apply it to our lives
Finally, we will always close with a prayer to bring it all together, humbly seeking understanding and wisdom from the Holy Spirit in relationship to the specific passage.
We encourage you to read along with us and answer these questions for yourself. If you would like suggestions on study tools to go farther on your own, you can find some of our favorites at the bottom of this post.
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.
What does this passage say about who God is?
God loves us greatly and perfectly. Jesus set the example and demonstrated first-hand the great love that He has for us by serving us first. The best leaders are those who willingly roll up their sleeves to do the things they want us to follow them in doing. Jesus was the greatest and best leader. He demonstrated real love by showing us that no act of service, done in love, is beneath us because it wasn’t too small or lowly for Him to do it first. Jesus is passionate about us (the Church) loving each other because He loves us so greatly.
What is the surrounding context and other Scriptures that tie into this passage?
If we start back at verse one of this chapter, we get the full scene. There is a meal prepared (it happens to be Passover but we won’t get into that for this post) and the room is ready for Jesus and the twelve disciples. Jesus is the most important person in the room. He is the Rabbi, the Leader, the King (who just rode into Jerusalem on a donkey but again we won’t go into that for now). This most important person, Jesus, who should be sitting at the head of the table waiting to be served, takes off his robe and kneels on the floor to serve the twelve – all twelve.
Jesus served even Judas, the one who would betray Him. Jesus sets up all twelve of His disciples for an object lesson in loving one another. Peter tries to take Jesus’ object lesson to an extreme level (something commonly done by Peter throughout the gospels). Jesus makes it a point to tell Peter that the requirement to love one another is not a competition, but more of a simple, every-day kind of love. Jesus says in this passage that this is a new command. He knows this idea is foreign to them. Being a servant as a demonstration of loving one another was not how people lived then. “Look out for number one” and “an eye for an eye” were the rule of the day. Jesus gives them a heads up that He knows it’s a new concept. Then He demonstrates how to follow this new commandment to love one another.
How does this passage apply to our lives?
It’s important to note that the “one another” Jesus is talking to are the disciples – His followers. Today, His followers are the Church. When people look at us, they should see the authentic, true, unique, image of God. When we love one another with an attitude of serving and preferring each other, other people will notice. Looking out for number one is still the way people live today, two thousand years later. Sometimes preferring and serving someone else is hard to do because our sin-nature is all about our self. However, Jesus set the example and then commanded us to follow Him.
We can look at the Scriptures to see how Jesus demonstrated love:
- humility: He set aside his entitlement to the throne and instead came to earth as a lowly, defenseless baby boy. He thought of you and me before Himself. (Phil. 2:3-8)
- servanthood: He fed the hungry, healed the sick, taught, washed feet, prayed for the hurting, and daily poured out of Himself to crowds and His closest friends
- grace & truth: He didn’t ignore anyone’s sin but gently helped others be aware of it and then responded with grace and forgiveness. (John 1:14-17)
- compassion: He was moved when He saw the crowds of people hurting and lost and loved on all of them, including the little children. (Matt. 9:36, 14:14, 15:32)
- forgiveness: He forgave the tax collectors and sinners, the thief on the cross next to Him, and even the ones who performed His crucifixion that didn’t know what they were doing. (Luke 23:34, 39-43)
- sacrifice: In the ultimate act of love, Jesus gave up His life fully so that we could live eternally with Him.
Lord Jesus thank you for your perfect life, for the beautiful example of love you gave in your life fully lived here on earth. You didn’t say it would be easy to follow in your footsteps, but thank you for promising to always be with us and to help us remember your example when we find ourselves struggling to love one another. Please strengthen your Church, Lord, through loving one another. Help us to show the world who You are. By the outpouring of our love, draw people the One who is True Love and the greatest relationship they’ll ever have. Forgive us, Lord for all the times we have spoken against one another or fought with our brothers and sisters for things that pale in comparison to the command you gave us to love one another. Forgive us for choosing our opinions, political views, feelings, and religious beliefs over loving one another. Help us, Lord to identify those places where we have caused pain and brokenness and help us to use love to repair hurt places. Thank you Lord for your love, grace, and forgiveness towards us – a love that we don’t deserve and never earned but was given freely. May we never take your love for us for granted. Amen.