A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.John 13:34-35 ASV
THE NEW COMMANDMENT
If this commandment had been merely a restatement of the Mosaic principle of loving one’s neighbor as himself, it would not have been new.
The newness of it is implicit in the words, “even as I have loved you.”
So a new type of love is given, as the Greek expositors generally have urged.
There is a deeper intensity in this love than can be found in Moses’ “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
In that commandment which embraces the whole law, self-love is assumed and made the standard for the love of neighbor.
In Christian thought, “God is love.” An everlasting, all-comprehensive, benevolent, and sacrificial love is held to be the very essence of God.
This redeeming love was revealed in Christ who summed up the law and the prophets in the two-fold commandment of love.
In the earliest ages of the church, there seems to have been far more success on the part of Christians in obeying this commandment than in present times.
The lack of love among Christians is a glaring weakness of faith today.
So long as this great power prevailed, the church made astonishing progress; when the so-called disciples of Christ began to hate and kill one another the progress was arrested.
But thank God, “the new commandment” has always had marvelous power over the church of Christ.
There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is not made perfect in love.
We love, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen.
And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.1 John 4:18-21 ASV
(1) The apostle John here presents one after another all but impossible levels of Christian attainment the love of all people with a self-sacrificing love like that of Christ.
(2) The living of a life free from every sin.
(3) Confidence in the hour of the final judgment when people are pleading for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them.
(4) The banishment of all fear; and notice that last phrase made perfect in love.
Is this anything less than the total God-like perfection enjoined by Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:48?
Impossible for people?
Certainly, except in the manner revealed in Christ.
To those who are “in Christ” and who abide in him, loving him, following him, obeying him to the fullest extent of human ability – to all such persons shall be given and certified the very blessings in view here; and thus “in Christ” they may attain the unattainable!
We love, because he first loved us.
One great purpose of the cross was that of persuading people to receive the salvation God was so willing to give.
Another truth evident in this is that, our love (whether of God or man) is a plain duty to us, since God first loved us.
It should be considered by all that the very fact of God’s loving sinful and fallen humanity provides a powerful incentive for all perceptive souls to do likewise.
Why did God love fallen and sinful men?
Even their being sinful did not change the fact that they had been designed and created in the image of the Father; and through God’s provident mercy, all of the moral and eternal consequences of their sins were potentially removable, through the means God revealed.
Moreover, the disaster which had fallen upon humanity in the events of the Fall, had actually been brought upon them by the seduction and skillful cunning of their inveterate enemy, Satan.
God pitied those human creatures who were so heartlessly betrayed and ruined by the sadistic moral rape of their innocence in Eden; and pity is never very far from love.
And should not similar considerations today lead every Christian in the direction of loving all people, every man, who like himself is a victim of sin, and yet is potentially an heir of eternal glory as a beneficiary of the blood of Christ?
The great redemptive purpose of God in Christ is that of making his children like himself, and, therefore, not to love is to negate our own redemption.
After God’s love in giving his Son for us, it would be monstrous not to love.
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen.
If people have any proper knowledge at all of God, they cannot fail, at the same time, to be aware of God-like qualities manifested in all human life, even in the unregenerated; for all people were made in God’s image, irrespective of the eroding and defacing influence of sin.
Failure to see this, with its consequent inclination to love people, is proof that the one so blind knows nothing of God and therefore does not love God.
Loving God in some abstract sense is not the kind of love the apostle enjoined; and such a truth has many corollaries.
This truth reveals that if we do not love the man on our doorstep, we do not love any man who is unknown to us in any personal sense; and the same thing is true with loving God.
The true test is found in the way we respond to people whom we know and with whom we associate, and whom, in many cases, we see every day.
In this verse, it is clear why John so boldly introduced the proposition in 1 John 4:12 that, “No man hath seen God at any time.” He was leading up to the argument here.
In struggling to understand and walk in the light of a verse like this, many will encounter problems.
Who has not encountered the same difficulty?
(1) that love in the sense intended here is not sentimentality, or feeling, but a conscious recognition of our necessity to do all that is consistent with the true welfare of others, also
(2) this attitude does not come automatically, but that it is developed and grows in hearts attuned to God’s will.
(3) It is also aided by the Christian’s realization that he himself has “inconsistencies” and much worse; and that he has been forgiven; and that we who have lost such an intolerable burden of guilt in the love of Christ can best show our appreciation of so great a boon by forgiving and loving others.
If what one is contradicts what one says, he is a liar.
One who claims to know God and walks in darkness is a liar.
One who “knows God” but denies the Son of God is a liar.
One who pretends to love God and hates his brother is a liar.
The last three of the above statements are really phases of the first proposition stated; these are the three black lies of 1 John, in the aggregate contradicting the:
(3) & SOCIAL BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.
This verse almost certainly relates to the great summary of all the law and the prophets as given by Jesus Christ in these words:
The second is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31).
That almighty God desires that his human creation should love him is one of the most revealing statements in Scripture.
That purposeful desire of God lies back of all that God ever revealed, all that he ever did, to redeem mankind.
How universally do people tend to fall short of this basic love!
Much of the love that passes for such is merely bigotry.
The bigot loves those who embrace his opinions, and receive his peculiar bias or prejudice; and he loves them for that, not for Christ.
Concerning Jesus’ joining in this verse and in the Gospels these twin commandments to love God and love one’s neighbor: what Christ has joined, let no man sever.
Sight may hinder as well as help; it is hard to love what is squalid and hideous.
In such cases, let us remember the Divine command; let us remember the Divinity which even the most debased humanity contains.
May our attitude toward this holy commandment be that of freely confessing that the total fulfillment of it lies utterly beyond our unaided human strength to accomplish it.
But may we also preempt unto that holy purpose the blessed promise of the apostle: “I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
“In him?” Yes, “in Christ,” in whom we shall at last be presented before the Father in perfection!