“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you…” —Jesus Christ, John 13:34 The following article titled, “Love One Another–The National Day of Prayer,” by Nathan Nass, a pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church, was published on the National Day of Prayer on May 2, 2019. Here is what he wrote:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
Jesus makes it sound so simple. Sometimes we think being a Christian is complicated. It’s not! “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” So what’s being a Christian—or a Christian Church—all about? “Love one another.” Simple! Christianity is not about buildings or programs. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
So how’s that going? May 2nd is the National Day of Prayer. Christians are encouraged to pray for our country. What a great idea! But if being a Christian hinges on loving one another, how’s that going in our country? Division on all sides. Lies spread. Churches burn. Students die. Immigrants suffer. Hatred grows. Right? Here’s the saddest part: Christians, or should I say “Christians,” are often right in the middle of it. Gathering around their “tribe.” Mocking others. Spreading rumors. “Love one another.” Is that what we see? How often aren’t Christians known more for political parties than for love? Why don’t people just love each other?
Well, why don’t we? The devil loves getting us concerned about everybody else’s sins, as long as we don’t think about our own. “Love one another.” Is your heart filled with love for everyone else? It’s simple, right? But Jesus’ simple command shows how sinful we are. If Jesus had said, “As I have loved you, love yourself,” I’d be doing a lot better. I want other people to love me. I want other people to sacrifice for me. What about you? As a church, how often don’t we expect other people to become like us? To act like us? To change for us? But loving them? Sacrificing for them? We don’t have time for that, do we? What sounds simple isn’t so simple!
In the Bible, God repeatedly convicted his nation—the Israelites—of not loving others. Do you know whom the Israelites most often refused to love? The foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow. Over and over again, God rebuked his people for refusing to love the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow. In fact, this was a sure-fire sign that people had fallen away from God—when they refused to love the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow. Does that sound familiar? “They don’t belong here! Get them out of our country!” How far we’ve fallen! You still hear people say America’s a Christian country. If that’s true, then Jesus is a liar, because Jesus says that Christians will be recognized for their love for each other. That’s not our country!
So the solution seems simple: “Choose love!” A group of well-meaning Christians have put together some nationwide materials for the National Day of Prayer. That’s what those materials emphasize: “Choose love not hate!” That’s really what everybody’s saying, right? “Choose love not hate!” Sounds great! But how’s that working? I can’t! I can’t choose to love everyone. Not when my heart is filled with pain and bitterness and hurt and hate. Not when our world is filled with pain and bitterness and hurt and hate. When are we going to realize that we don’t have the power to fix things? It’s not a matter of just choosing love, not hate.
A slogan can’t save us. Government can’t fix it. Politics aren’t the answer. Do you know what is? Five little words. There’s a little phrase we’ve skipped over. “As I have loved you…” “As I have loved you…” Nothing starts with you. Nothing depends on us. If you want to find love, don’t look inside your heart. Look to Jesus. “As I have loved you…” What do you see? On the night before his death, Jesus wrapped a towel around his waste and washed his disciples feet. In the Lord’s Supper, he gave them his own body and blood. Then he let himself be arrested and tried and crucified. Why? Because Jesus loves you. That much! “As I have loved you.”
There is only one source of real, unconditional love—Jesus! Our country needs a movement—a movement back to Jesus! Jesus didn’t say to us, “You need to change and become like me!” When would that have happened? Never! Jesus gave up all that he had to become one of us and live for us and die for us and save us. Jesus didn’t see people who looked different and say, “Get them out of here!” His Word says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). He made us part of his family!
And Jesus turned to his disciples, and to you and me, and said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” A “new” command. There’s nothing new about the idea of loving each other. Here’s what’s new: Before Jesus, no one knew what love really is. The world had never seen love like Jesus’ love. We’re used to give and take. To love in order to be loved. But grace for sinners? Love for the unlovable? Unconditional love? Self-sacrificing love? That’s new. That’s Jesus! But that love doesn’t end with Jesus. It’s a chain. We’re part of it! “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
This is what America needs. This is our community needs. Christ-like love. What if we loved like Jesus? What if everybody loved like Jesus? Wouldn’t that be a great prayer? May Jesus and his love lead Christians everywhere to love like him! Because this is what Christians do—“Love one another.” Christians enter into other people’s lives and care about them—body and soul—like Jesus for us. Jesus set the bar of love pretty high, and then he tells us: “Go for it! I’ll help you love like me!” And do you know what? People will notice. They will notice you. They will notice our church. But most of all, they will notice our Savior Jesus. And they and our country will be blessed. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Quote source here.)
James 2 in The Message Bible tells us how to live out this “royal rule of love,” and follows it up with “faith in action”:
The Royal Rule of Love
My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?
Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?
You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.
Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.
Faith in Action
Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”
Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.
Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?
Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”? The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?
The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn’t her action in hiding God’s spies and helping them escape—that seamless unity of believing and doing—what counted with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.
I’ll end this post with the same words of Jesus that opened this post: A new commandment I give you . . .
Love one another . . .
As I have . . .
Loved you . . . .
YouTube Video: “Love One Another” by the Newsboys: