by Danny Bote
If you do a quick internet search on the word love, you will find many definitions. Most definitions that you will find are in regards to love being a feeling, a strong affection toward someone, a physical attraction to someone, or a person that you have romantic feelings about.
But what does Scripture define love as? When Galatians 5 says that love is a fruit of the Spirit, what does that mean and look like? Let’s begin by taking a look in the gospel of John. Jesus says in John 13:34: “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…”
Have you ever wondered why Jesus says this is a new commandment? Isn’t that the purpose of the last six of the Ten Commandments, to love others? How is it after thousands of years after the law was given and written that Jesus is saying this is “a new commandment”?
You see, Jesus isn’t saying this is a brand new, unknown commandment, but that he is showing what it is actually supposed to look like in practice (a fruit). How is he teaching and showing us? Let’s look at the context in which this verse is found.
Jesus gives this “new commandment” during the evening in which he was washing the disciples’ feet (which in and of itself, is incredible! The CREATOR of the UNIVERSE washing dirt off of the feet of those who are about to desert him as he gets arrested). After the foot washing, with a deeply troubled spirit, Jesus tells the disciples that one of them will betray him and that it’s the disciple to whom he gives the dipped piece of bread. He proceeds to give the bread to Judas, and then Satan enters Judas. Judas leaves, and the disciples still don’t know what’s going on; they just think he went to go get the moneybag and buy something for the feast or give to the poor. Right when Judas leaves Jesus gives this “new commandment.”
So, what do we learn from this account and message on love in John 13?
First, we love others. Don’t skip over that too fast. It doesn’t say we love those who love us, or believe like us, or like us. We love others. We love those who betray us, believe differently than us, hate us and maybe even potentially kill us one day. Christ knew all along who was going to betray him from his inner circle; yet he still loved him, served him and washed his feet. It is obvious that Judas was never saved, but Christ still loved him and served him unconditionally.
Second, before we judge Judas and others, we must realize that we all were at one time, or still are, enemies of God. And Christ died for his enemies. Romans 5:10-11 states; “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
So, who are your enemies? Is it your spouse? Child? An ex-spouse? Old friend? Co-worker? Boss? Political enemy? Someone from a different religion? We are to express the love of Christ to our enemies.
Jesus then continues his explanation of love by saying this in verse 35, “By this (love for one another) all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Do people know that you are a Christ-follower? How are they to know?
- By your love, service, and sacrifice for all people.
- When people see that you love your fellow Christ-follower as well as your enemy.
- When you serve and forgive all people-those who are in your inner circle and those who hate you and want to kill you.
Then, ALL PEOPLE will know that you are a disciple of Jesus. He doesn’t say that all people will come to salvation because of the expression of love, but that when they see you and the way you love, forgive, sacrifice, and serve, other people will KNOW that you are a Christ-follower.
Then we must be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks us for the reason of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). If this fruit of the Spirit is being expressed in our lives, we will have the opportunity to share with people what and who true love is-Jesus Christ.