A Culture of Loving
On the coattails of Christ speaking about serving one another and His ultimate service for us upon the Cross, Jesus speaks the words of John 13:34-35. He is now with His disciples in an intimate setting, with no outside distractions. He speaks plainly and directly. There is no question the point He is trying to make here.
1. Jesus delegates authority to mankind (non-Christians included!).
v35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Apart from the Bible, there are few books that I have read that absolutely changed me. The Mark of the Christian by Francis Schaeffer is certainly one of those. The whole premise of the book is built upon what is said in this very passage. Schaeffer says the following about verse 35:
“That’s pretty frightening. Jesus turns to the world and says, ‘I’ve something to say to you. On the basis of my authority, I give you a right: you may judge whether or not an individual is a Christian on the basis of the love he shows to other Christians.’”
What is love?
Well, I’ll tell you what biblical love is not. It is not merely a chemical reaction in the brain. Love is the very first fruit mentioned in Galatians 5 in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. Love is a gift that God gives to His believing people, one that He imparts to them by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Before God lists any of the other attributes, He lists love. The Christian life always begins with love.
The Apostle Paul detailed this in 1 Cor. 13:1-3. We could speak like angels, have the highest spiritual gifts, know the deepest doctrines, move mountains, sell everything and give it all away and give away our body to be burnt - and it would all be for nothing if we don't have love.
Not only does a life without love profit Paul nothing (v3), he says very clearly (v2) that a life without love defines him as nothing. “[If I] have not love, I AM NOTHING.”
Back to Francis Schaeffer for a moment. He went on to say the following and I think this is powerful:
“… if people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgment that we are not Christians
because we have not shown love to other Christians, we must understand that they are only
exercising a prerogative that Jesus gave them. And we must not get angry. If people say,
‘You don’t love other Christians,’ we must go home, get on our knees and ask God whether
or not they are right.”
2. Jesus demonstrates true Christian love.
v34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another"
This was a game-changer. The heart of God for His people has always been the same from the beginning. His heart is love. This was something that the religious elite of Jesus’ day had lost sight of. They had got used to religious system that sought to be as pure and as pious and as upright as possible. Yet, it was a system that lacked love and compassion. It was a life that lacked life. Even though the OT clearly stated that we should love our neighbours as ourselves, love was the missing ingredient.
So, Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment.” On one hand it was not new, as love was commanded by God from the beginning. On the other hand, it was new altogether; "as I have loved you, that you also love one another".
How did He love them?
Though the disciples argue with Him, argue with each other about who was the greatest, and, ultimately, forsook Him; their Lord never abandoned them. In fact, only after they left Him did He pay the ultimate sacrifice of on their behalf. How did He love? Sacrificially! And He says, “Love like me.”
Here is a wonderful (yet, overlooked) principle for our everyday Christian lives: Christ is the object. In other words, Christ is our ultimate goal. Everything points to Him. After His resurrection, He walked through the OT to teach them Himself in the OT. All of the OT prophets and authors were looking to Him and pointing to Him. Even the Law and all of those commandments pointed to the One Who would fulfil the Law. He told His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to point them back to Christ. And we are to love in a way that points to Christ and makes us think of Him when we love each other. It’s all about Christ.
3. How do we demonstrate Christ’s love?
So, practically speaking, how do I love my brothers and sister? How does this look? Take the time to read 1 Corinthians 13v4-8. This is the love that Jesus showed us and this is the love the Spirit works in His people.
Imagine being a man with a wife, son, and successful profession. Imagine encountering alcoholism and allowing a few bad decisions to send that spiralling down. You eventually find yourself living single, hours away from family. Somewhere along the line, in your darkest moments, the Lord Jesus reaches down and saves you, and you eventually find a church to plug into. Then, you find out that you have two different types of cancer. A surgery that lasts the better part of the day is required, and renders you effectively helpless as you recover. As you lie in the hospital bed, it dawns on you: “My closest family member is hours away. Who will care for me?” Without prompting, a family from the church offers to take you into their home and allow you to recover, as they serve you and care for you. They have not been paid to do so, and speak nothing of payment or debt. This very situation recently unfolded in our church. I’m sure it was not convenient timing. But this family was willing to sacrifice to serve their Christian brother.
This is the type of love that Christ is drawing the hearts of His disciples to.
Part 1 - A Culture of Serving
Part 2 - A Culture of Loving
Matt Green is Pastor of Blurton Baptist Church in Stoke-on-Trent. Matt was born and raised in the USA. Having trusted Christ at 19 years of age, he followed God's leading to train for ministry in Bible College. God eventually led Matt, his wife and two children to the UK to serve full-time. They have now lived and served in the UK for over a decade. Matt loves expository preaching, evangelism and discipleship. His favourite hobby is basketball.