We’ve been working our way through a Bible study on love, and today we’re getting into the heart of the whole series as we finally learn about the new kind of love Jesus brought onto the scene. Jesus’ teaching on love was pretty radical, and there’s a lot for us to unpack there, but the way He loved was what changed everything. The love of Christ was a new kind of love, and with it came a new commandment about how we’re called to love.
So let’s get out our Bibles and get into it!
Jesus’ Teaching on Love
We’re talking today about how Jesus gave us a new commandment about the way we’re called to love. The command was given to His disciples on the night before His death.
The Gospel of John contains five whole amazing chapters (13-17) that give us a precious, intimate look into the time Jesus spent with His disciples that night, preparing them for what was about to happen, and leaving them with His final instructions and teachings.
But before that night when He gave a new commandment meant only for those who had chosen to follow Him with their lives, He had spent three years traveling around Israel, instructing great crowds of people who came to hear Him speak. They came to see the powerful teacher who shook up the comfortable, complacent religious culture of the time with radical ideas. And they came to see Him perform mighty miracles.
Many of those radical ideas were centered around love. So let’s look real quick at Jesus’ teaching on love before we go specifically to His new commandment.
Matthew 5:43-48 – You have heard the law that says, “Love your neighbor” and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Luke 16:13 – “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
Matthew 10:37 – If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.
Luke 7:47 – I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.
John 12:25 – Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.
And then there is Matthew 24:11-12, Luke 15:11-32, John 21:15-17, John 3:16, John 14, Luke 6:27-35, John 8:42-44, and Luke 10:25-37.
*If you missed the previous post about Jesus’ teaching on love in that last passage about the greatest commandments, you can find it here to catch up.
There is no doubt, Jesus’ teaching on love sounded pretty strange to the people of that day. I mean, it sounds pretty strange to us today too, doesn’t it? Love your enemy? Really? You cannot love God and be enslaved to money? Ouch! If you love your life you’ll lose it? Do any of us really want to hear these things? They’re hard! They go against every natural instinct we have.
But the most radical of all Jesus’ teaching on love was still to come. Just before He died, Jesus dropped a new commandment on His disciples, and it was the most difficult teaching of all.
The Love of Christ
Of course, if we don’t know how Jesus loved us, then this commandment isn’t going to make much of an impact. So let’s look into the love of Christ in order to understand what Jesus meant when He said this was a new commandment.
The first thing we have to understand in order to fully grasp the love of Christ, is who He was in the first place.
The Bible tells us He was God Himself. He was eternal, all powerful, and lived in perfect unity with Father and Spirit.
*For more on who Jesus was – His character and unique attributes – check out this post on Getting to Know Jesus – God the Son.
John 1:1-14 – In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God [Unity], and the Word was God [Deity] . He existed in the beginning with God [eternal]. God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him [all-powerful]. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone…
He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him… So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
So it was a HUGE sacrifice when He gave all that up to come to earth as a human baby, and an even bigger act of surrender when He died in our place! It was an offering we’ll likely never fully grasp, since we’ll never know what it is to be God. But the Bible tells us Jesus willingly gave Himself for two reasons:
- Out of obedience to His Father. (His love for God)
- Out of His great love for us.
Philippians 2:6-8 – Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Galatians 2:20 – My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who LOVED ME and GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME.
The Love of Christ Defined
As we move on in this study it is going to be important to be able to very clearly define the love of Christ. When Jesus gave us a new commandment on love, it meant we need to know what loving like Jesus looks like. Here is what the Scripture has revealed to us so far:
- The love of Christ is not concerned with His own rights or what is owed to Him as a result of His position and status. It is completely and totally postured in humility.
- Jesus’ love is faithful.
- Jesus’ love for us is inspired and motivated by His love for the Father
- The love of Christ is a sacrificial love. He gave Himself – His everything – for us.
And there are two more things we need to identify about the love of Christ that define it as something different than any other love we’ve ever known. Jesus’ love is unconditional, and inescapable. In other words, it is never-ending, and has absolutely nothing to do with us and whether or not we deserve it. We don’t. We can’t.
Romans 8:34-39 – Who then will condemn us? No one – for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A New Commandment
So now that we have a feel for the love of Christ, let’s revisit His new commandment.
John 15:9-14 – I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
This is my commandment: 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. You are my friends if you do what I command.
As we learned last week, the people of God have always been called to love. But now, it’s not just about loving our neighbor in the same way we love ourselves. Instead, it’s about setting self aside, and in humility putting our brothers and sisters in Christ on a higher plane of priority than we put ourselves. It’s no longer selfless love we’re called to, but sacrificial love.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like that.
I mean, it goes against everything our culture has taught us about self-care. It feels like God is asking me to let people walk all over me, and that seems wrong. But if Jesus gives a new commandment, we can be certain it is not going to be wrong. It’s going to be very right, and living in obedience to it is going to be for our good. So we’ll get into the specifics of that next week by learning how loving like Jesus gets fleshed out in daily life.
Known by Our Love
But first, there is one more point about Jesus’ teaching on love that we want to make sure we don’t miss. When Jesus gave us a new commandment about the way we’re supposed to love, He said something really important. Look with me again at John 13.
John 13:34-35 – So now I am giving you a new commandment:
Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
Our love for one another within the body of Christ is what is going to prove to the world that we’re followers of Jesus. It’s what is going to set us apart from the rest of the world.
To love like Jesus loved us is so unnatural that when we do it, it’s going to get noticed. It’s going to stand out. Loving the way Jesus loved is going to set us apart as different, because to love like that is frankly impossible.
But people who experience the love of Jesus are changed by it. We become rooted in that love, and it grows up through us and spills out as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to love with a new kind of love. It is a love that has the power to change the world! If only we’ll be obedient.
Precious church, we have been given a new commandment. Our Lord and Savior has called us to live so that we are known by our love. May the One who called us find us faithful!
Ephesians 3:14-19 – When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
*If you missed the first two parts of this series and would like to catch up, or if you want to find all the other posts, resources, and related content, you can find the series page by clicking the image below.