Based on: John 13:31-35
“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” That was the new command Jesus gave to his disciples as they left the upper room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus was crucified. It is also Jesus’ command for you. It is not a suggestion. It is not some optional feature to being a Christian, nor is it some hopeful wish on the part of Jesus. It is a command.
When Jesus gives this command he says this is a new command. It doesn’t sound all that new at first. It sounds a lot like the second table of the law where God tells us how to treat others. Jesus sums it up with “love your neighbor as yourself.” But this command is different. Jesus connects this command to love with his own love for us. It is not a fear of punishment that drives us, but the love of Christ. His love is our motivation. We could say that it is really his love working in us.
This command, then, is not a burden, not something that we as Christians dread. This love will flow from a heart that knows it has been loved by Christ and this love will be evidence that you have been loved. So love one another because you have been loved, and love one another to show others that you have been loved.
I want to tell you that I have enjoyed catechism class with you. We got to know each other better. I watched you grow in your understanding of God’s word. I enjoyed answering your questions, no matter how strange or bizarre they were.
As we studied God’s Word you grew in your faith and in your understanding of the basics of our Christian faith. I want to make it clear to you that you are not done. I encourage you to continue your studies in God’s word because in that word you find life, peace, and the only true happiness that there is on this earth. You have just learned the basics of our Christian faith. These past two years we have simply put together a framework or a skeleton on which all your future learning can hang. Continue to put flesh on that skeleton. The same is true for everyone here. If you have not recently added to your knowledge of God’s Word, then I encourage you to get back in to Bible class or even take one of the Bible information classes I conduct on occasion. Ask me about it.
There is something else I want you to learn from our time together. I want you to look at my example. I think each one of you would say that I care about each one of you. The love I have for you is genuine and I sincerely pray that each one of you will continue to let me be part of your life. But recognize that the concern I have shown for each of you is simply the love of Christ revealed in me. So I say love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. Just as the apostle Paul says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
In catechism class we learned that the entire Bible points to that one person, Jesus Christ, as our Savior. All of Scripture tells us how Jesus has loved us. So love one another because you have been loved by Jesus.
Before you were born he knew your name. Your name is written in the Lamb’s book of Life. He knows your whole life. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” King David wrote. He knows you, your likes, dislikes, your personality – he made you. He “knit you together in your mother’s womb.” Even though he already knows everything there is to know about you, he still cherishes every word you speak to him. He tells you to pray, and he promises to listen and answer.
Even more important, he also wants to talk to you. He wants to tell you about what he did for you. He wants you to see his love for you in the way he healed so many others, in the way he pronounced forgiveness over repentant sinners, in the way he encouraged his disciples in spite of their shortcomings. He wants you to see his love for you in the way he spread out his arms for you on the cross and covered all our loveless acts with his blood.
Even though you would have nothing to do with him on your own, he came to you in Baptism and with his Word. He washed you clean in those baptismal waters and clothed you in his own perfect white robe.
This is his love for you and now he says in the same way that I loved you, you love one another.
What does that love for others look like? We are perhaps too familiar with the world’s kind of love – a love that says the words “I love you.” It may be affectionate, but it also often wants more than it gives, or perhaps is only there in the easy times.
You will be different. As you love one another, rejoice with each other in the good times, comfort one another in times of grief, and always encourage one another in faith.
At times that means that if one of you falls into sin, the others will want to bring that one person back to God, they will want to try to call that one to repentance. The same is true if one of you begins to be absent from the church. Be willing to be the Shepherd’s staff that God uses to bring the straying sheep back to the flock. It is a difficult thing, but when you love someone you care about their spiritual well-being.
When a group of Christians love one another in that way, in the same way Jesus has loved us, then that is real evangelism. Jesus tells us to love one another so that others will know that we are his disciples, in that way others will know that we have been loved by God himself.
This is the kind of love the world craves and longs for. When they see your love for one another they will want to know why. They will ask questions. The early church in Jerusalem was a good example of this kind of love. They shared their belongings, they worshiped together, they loved each other and the church grew quickly. People saw the love they had for one another and they wanted to be a part of it. The jailor who guarded Paul and Silas in prison also saw in them the peace and joy that comes from the love of Christ and asked how he could be loved by God.
When you love one another like this. You will be salt on the earth, and you will be a light shining in a dark place. There’s a saying, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” The love of Christ shining through you is like a candle that no darkness can extinguish.
Others will see how you have been loved and so many ways and will look for it themselves. So love one another. You have been loved and you are loved, by your family, by me, by the members of this congregation, and especially by your savior Jesus Christ. So love one another because you have been loved and then also love one another so that others will see that you have been loved.