October 16, 2014

Why is love a “new” commandment?

Frustration sets in when I try to do something that I have no capacity to do. I cannot move a refrigerator to another room. I cannot sing opera (even if I wanted to), and I have no capacity to learn a new language; the synapses in my brain will not cooperate.

Prior to salvation, I could not love God either, even if I tried. How could I? I could not see Him or touch Him. I didn’t know if He cared about me at all. He was a stranger. However, He took the initiative and entered my life. As I learned of Him, I also learned about loving Him and loving others as well.

Jesus said, “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)

Why is that a “new” commandment? Hadn’t God already told His people to love Him with all their heart and to love their neighbor as themselves? He had, but they had failed. Now He gives them this new commandment along with a new capacity. He gave this also to me.
First, we became reborn people with new hearts and regenerated spirits. We may have loved God prior to this, but my love at least was more of a ‘getting’ or receiving kind of desire. However, the saving grace of Christ turned it into gratitude and a desire to return that love of His as much as possibly can.

John explains it this way: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 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. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7–12)

Second, this love for others was new because it was a different kind of love. Jesus said, “. . . just as I have loved you.” Prior to Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, the people of God did not know the depths of God’s love. Even if they had a sense of it, they could not do it apart from having God’s Spirit in their lives. Neither can I. Loving God as He loved me is impossible in my own strength.

Third, the disciples and I need the Holy Spirit. We also must be filled with the Spirit and walking in His power, not our own so our lives are producing the fruit of the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23)

Perhaps the most important capacity for loving God and others is a humility that comes from knowing I am a sinner forgiven, justified freely by His grace and given eternal life as a gift. Undeserving and helpless people who receive this amazing gift from God fall madly in love with this One who so freely loves them. Along with gratitude, loving God becomes a given.

It is also a given to be set free from all that is selfish and prevents me from loving others. No one can love anyone else when wrapped up trying to earn or deserve love from God and love from others for themselves. This is selfishness even as it is felt as one of the deepest needs of life. With that need taken care of in Jesus Christ, I have new life and with it a new capacity and freedom to love others just as He freely loves me.

Halleluiah, He is an amazing Savior! 

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