The word “love” is mentioned between 504 and 686 times in the Bible, depending on the translation. This shows that love is one of the central themes of God’s word. It is the foundation of our faith. It ought also to be a way of life for Christians, following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the well-known Bible verses about love is found in John 13. “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).
John 13 is part of Jesus’ teachings to His disciples known as the Upper Room Discourse. The Discourse records for us Jesus’ intimate thoughts and His love for His disciples, spanning five chapters from John 13 to John 17.
As I meditated on John 13, I noticed two significant events mentioned in the text before and after John 13:34,35. First is Jesus’ act of love, the washing of the disciples’ feet (John 13:5). The second is the two betrayals that were about to happen: the betrayal by Judas Iscariot to the chief priests and Peter’s denial of Jesus three times.
How do these events add greater significance to what Jesus said in John 13:34-35 when He exhorted His disciples to “love one another”?
Let’s look at Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. The washing of feet in those days was mostly left to gentile slaves. Even a Jewish slave was not expected to wash feet. But we read in John 13:4-5 that Jesus stood up, took off his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around his waist, poured water into a basin and started washing his disciples’ feet, including Judas’ and Peter’s. Jesus showed radical love when he took the role of a lowly servant and washed the feet of Judas and Peter. Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him to the chief priest because Satan had already planted the seed of betrayal into his heart (John 13:2). Jesus also knew how many times Peter would deny Him; not once or twice but three times (John 13:38). Yet, this knowledge did not prevent Jesus from washing their feet with the same love and humility as He did the other disciples’.
Jesus showed what Agape love truly meant: love that is selfless, sacrificial and unconditional. Even though Jesus knew that Judas would not repent eventually, Jesus continued to show His love for him. Jesus had already prayed for Peter for his restoration even before Peter’s bold proclamations that he was ready to lay down his life for Him (Luke 22:31).
When Jesus exhorted His disciples to love one another, He gave it as a “commandment”. In other words, showing love to one another is not a choice but a commandment for us to obey. Jesus further exhorted us to love one another in the same way that He himself loved us. We are to follow His example of how He demonstrated His love, that is, selflessly, sacrificially and unconditionally, not expecting anything in return for loving others. It also meant praying for one another, just as Jesus prayed for His disciples (John 17) even though all of them left Him in the garden of Gethsemane.
How can we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, obey His commandment and love one another in Hermon? May I suggest three ways:
Stay connected to one another by gathering more frequently in person. Our digital age has made us more aware and appreciative of the value of being physically present. Gathering together for worship and bible study is seen as an act of love for one another. It is more personal and relational. In Hebrews 10:24-25, when Paul wrote, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some”, he certainly meant physical gathering, even in today’s digital age.
Demonstrate love by showing interest in one another. To show love requires effort, but it does not require extraordinary gifts. Do consider staying back after service to get to know one another better. Strive to be a good listener. Start small but persevere and push through the awkwardness. Except for the most extroverted among us, getting to know people is challenging. Most people have to wade in the shallow end before they will try swimming in the deep. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are friendships. Keep your hand to the relational plow. C. S. Lewis has an interesting quote on why keeping at it makes all the difference: “Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
Pray for each other. Prayer is a powerful way to demonstrate love. Let’s model our Lord Jesus and pray even for our enemies. Through prayer, the Spirit helps us to forgive and love even the unlovable. Greater unity and connectedness are achieved when we pray for one another.
Our next prayer meeting is on Wednesday, 14 February. The theme is “Loving one another”. May I encourage you to spend time reflecting on this article. May God move your heart to come and pray. I will be praying.
Eld Sim Chow Meng
DeYoung, K. (2018, November 13). Eleven ways Christians can love one another. The Gospel Coalition. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/eleven-ways christians-can-love-one-another/