A pastor accepted a new call. The pastor was excited about the new ministry. The church was excited too, and hoped their new pastor would lead them in new directions. On the first Sunday, the pastor used John 13:34-35 as the sermon text. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The congregation was pleased with the pastor’s first Sunday and first sermon.
The next Sunday they were surprised when their new pastor preached the exact same sermon using the exact same scripture lesson. When the pastor preached it a third time on the third Sunday, the congregation complained to the leadership. The chair of the pastor-parish relations committee went to the pastor and asked the obvious question, “Why are you preaching the same sermon every week? The pastor simply answered, “When the church starts practicing this sermon, I’ll write a new one!”
Essentially all of Jesus’ life, ministry, preaching, and teaching can be summed up in a one word message–love. Of course, love existed before Jesus ever walked this earth. It was out of love that God created humanity. Out of love, God desired a relationship with humanity. Out of love, God sent Jesus to remind us how to live fully in that love and love one another. Jesus was love incarnate.
All of Jesus’ teachings can be summarized in his instruction to the disciples found in the thirteen chapter of John, verse 34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Why does Jesus claim this as a new command? What is new about it for us?
Jesus’ command to love goes beyond the golden rule–do unto others, as you would have them do unto to you. Jesus’ command raises the bar. Jesus’ command raises the standard. Jesus’ command demands that disciples of every time, generation, culture, and race must work to figure out how to love others as Jesus would. His extravagant love becomes the standard for every believer of every age.
Jesus also clearly explains that there is one basic identifier for how he and others will know you are a disciple. As John 13, verse 35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Did you catch it? It is one word, one way we will be identified as disciples–love. That is why we sing “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
Yet, what puzzles me is how Christians are better known for their judgmental attitudes, quick judgments, harsh criticisms, intolerance, and even hatred. Sadly, there are many Christians that are more worried about defining for the world what they stand against instead of what they stand for by living out and expressing fully the extravagant love of Jesus.
There is a reason that the words to the song are NOT “And they’ll know we are Christians by what we dislike, oppose and turn away.”
Jesus’ command is clear. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” It is a message that we in the Church still need to hear and be challenged to practice. May we so fully stand up for, live out, and express fully the extravagant love of Jesus so that everyone WILL know we are disciples by our love.