A Love Worth Dying For?
A new commandment I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must 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
Dear brothers & sisters,
What is love, really? That is the question we have been wrestling with in the first three parts of our Living Waters Series.
First, we are commanded to love God. Wading through the deep waters of Jesus’ wisdom, we found that a genuine love for God will bring about obedience to His will. (And as simple as only the Truth can be, we discover God’s will through the teachings of His Son–the Word of God, John 1:1, 14 & Revelation 19:13.)
Second, we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. For Part 2, we drank in a lot: from who our neighbor is to what Jesus intended this love to look like to what implications the second greatest commandment has on our own salvation!
And now we come to the new commandment, which reveals and requires a love that is not only selfless, but self-sacrificing, following after the example of one who accepted brutal execution for the sake of love.
The important question we should ask ourselves is what does this new commandment mean for us as followers of Christ today?
There are two parts to this teaching of Jesus: a) Jesus’ example, and b) the instruction to love each other.
During his last evening with his disciples, right in the middle of their last meal together, Jesus stripped down, wrapped a towel around his waist, and started washing the stinky, dirty feet of those who claimed him as Teacher and Lord, the very Son of God (John 13:1-17). Setting an example of love distinguished by selfless service, Jesus humbled himself to his own followers, and then tells them to do the same for each other (John 13:14-15).
So this is the kind of love that Jesus is talking about when he tells us to love one another as he has loved us. The kind of love where the greatest is servant of all (Mark 9:35). The kind of love where leadership is not lorded over others, but rather served under as a model (Matthew 20:25-26).
One would think that this new commandment would be easier to practice than the two greatest commandments because we have a clear example to follow, recorded in four historically reliable accounts: the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
“As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” Jesus said (John 13:34). Yet it is strikingly obvious to anyone who has actually read the four gospels for themselves that the vast majority of professing Christians have a skewed impression of who Jesus was and what he was like. Too many of us who claim to believe seem to have some made-up person in our minds that we call Jesus. These fake Jesuses (i.e. false messiahs) always conform to our own notions about what is loving, what is respectable, and what we care about.
The question we should really be asking ourselves is how can we hope to practice this new commandment if we don’t even take the time to see for ourselves how Jesus loved? It’s written right there in the four gospels, if we’d only learn to read them without our own biases getting in the way!
Jesus said that our love for each other will be the definitive marker to the world that we are his disciples (John 13:35). Yet it’s obvious to the very people we are supposed to be witnessing to that us modern-day Christians are really no different than everyone else. Where do you see Christians living together, sharing all possessions in common, truly showing love to one another through selfless service 24/7, just like Jesus and his disciples in the gospels, and then the first Christians in the book of Acts (e.g. Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-35)? This should be the norm for the Christian faith, and yet this lifestyle that Jesus patterned before us is all too rare, almost non-existent.
So does this mean that Jesus was wrong, that his disciples (i.e. Christians) don’t actually love each other the way that Jesus loved us? Or is it rather that today’s Christians aren’t actually Christians, disciples of Jesus after all?
The only people we are fooling are ourselves.
My commandment is this: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.John 15:12-13
We really can’t talk about Jesus’ love for us without looking to the ultimate sign of his self-sacrificial love on the cross. Whatever your theology about the cross is, one thing we can all agree on is that Jesus courageously embraced the logical extreme of his radical philosophy of selfless love unto death. (And an absolutely horrendous death at that.)
But, unlike what you’d probably hear at church, Jesus did not claim to do it all for us on the cross.
*insert record scratch and horrified screams*
Jesus did more than die for us: he calls on us to do the same.
Jesus said, “if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).
Maybe he meant this figuratively, but when we look to the history of the early church and all the countless martyrs who followed in the footsteps of their Lord & Savior, there are no comfortable questions or interpretations about what Jesus really meant.
Facing death for the sake of love, that is the Way of Jesus which will revolutionize the whole world if enough people come together and embrace true discipleship, pick-up-your-cross discipleship, self-sacrificing discipleship.
This is the ideal, but just a quick look around at the billions of professing Christians in the world today leaves us with a completely different picture of what discipleship under Jesus is like.
It is true that there are Christians in north Africa and across Asia who are being actively persecuted for their faith.* But what about those of us surrounded by first-world affluence and cultural tolerance in the West? Where is our cross? Where is our persecution?
(When was the last time you heard this promise in church?)
So was he lying or was he just wrong? Or maybe there’s something wrong with us?
Maybe we’ve stopped following in the footsteps of our Lord. Maybe we are no longer disciples of Jesus, but disciples of our own ideologies, our own pastors, our own countries (Matthew 24:24). We’re no longer loving one another the way that Jesus loved us. We’re no longer practicing any of his teachings in the way that he modeled them. We’ve started becoming more and more of this world, and like he said, they won’t persecute us if we’re of this world (John 15:18-21).
It’s time, brothers and sisters. It’s time for those of us who claim to believe in Jesus to start believing him when he tells us to do something and shows us how it’s done. We encourage you to open your Bibles up, first to the four gospels and then to the rest of the New Testament. Start reading, and let Jesus speak into your life. When he instructs his disciples, he is instructing you! Let him guide our steps, and let us no longer conform to the patterns of this world, but to the pattern of Jesus, his disciples, and the first Christians (Romans 12:2).
Stay tuned! Next week, we will be diving deeper into radical discipleship and the Way of selfless love that Jesus calls us to.
Love & Prayers,
Luke & Allie
Faith Worker Ministries