At the last supper, Jesus instructed His disciples to love one another: "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" (John 13:34–35). What did He mean?
What is meant by the command to love one another?
Jesus wants His followers to care for each other on the deepest levels. A distinguishing feature of Christians should be their love for one another. Our love for one another flows out of our love for God, which is a result of God's love for us (1 John 4:19). John, one of Jesus' disciples, wrote often about love. For example, "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. … And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:10–11, 21).
Jesus wants His followers to be bound not primarily by service, command, family, nationality, pledge, race, interest, or anything else, but by love.
When the Holy Spirit appeared at Pentecost, people were gathered from all over the world—people from other nations with varied interests and backgrounds (Acts 2:9–11), yet once they were bound in Christ, they began serving each other, pooling their resources, and giving to those in need (Acts 2:42–47). This was love in action.
Jesus gave us a model of how to love one another. He loves unconditionally (Romans 5:8), sacrificially (2 Corinthians 5:21), with an ability to forgive (Ephesians 4:32), and forever (Romans 8:38–39). He, and His love, is holy (Hebrews 7:26). We are to love like that.
We are able to follow Jesus' example because of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Our choice to follow the Holy Spirit's leading and Jesus' instruction in the Word of God gives us the ability to follow His example.
We are to love each other, our neighbors, and even our enemies (Matthew 5:43–48). This sort of love is described in 1 Corinthians 13:4–8: "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away."
Loving one another the way Christ loved us is only possible with the supernatural power of God (2 Peter 1:3–8). Jesus gives us the command to love one another, then gives us the power to do just that.
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Truth about Relationships