34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
34 A new commandment [precept] I give to you,
The word “commandment” means behest or precept. The idea is that Jesus wanted His disciples to relate to God and others based on principles.
“New” means new in kind, not new in time. There were existing commandments in the Old Testament encouraging Israel to love others. What was new here is the phrase “as I loved you.” It is a love that originates in the sacrificial love of Christ.
The “new” commandment that Jesus gave is to love based on sacrifice. Believers are to follow this new feature or principle of love. Since Jesus was about to leave them physically, they would need strong commitment to each other in His absence.
that you love one another;
There are three dimensions of love in this context: (1) our vertical love for the Lord, (2) horizontal love for each other, and (3) their love for one another demonstrating their love for the Lord.
as I have loved you,
Loving other people as ourselves was not a new command (Lev 19:18; Mt 5:43-48). The “new” element here, however, is to love “as I have loved you.” Jesus’ standard for loving is His own loving sacrifice for others. This phrase goes beyond the Leviticus 19:18 command to love others. The “new” element of the commandment is that the disciples were to love each other just as Jesus loved them. Jesus loved them by dying on the cross. The emphasis here is on a new mode of loving.
that you also love one another.
The kind of love that Jesus requires of His followers raises love to an entirely different level. It is the example that Jesus set for His disciples and the distinguishing mark of being a Christian.
Self-sacrificing love is the new norm for believers and the hallmark of genuine Christianity.
Christians live in a hostile world. They need the support of one another to operate properly in that kind of environment. They can do that best by sacrificially loving each other.
We sing, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” That is true. They will not know that we are Christians by our material success or by the size of our congregations but by our love for one another.
The more we come to grips with the extent of our sin, the more we can come to understand the love of Christ for us. His norm for loving others was very high. This is an entirely different economy for Christians.
Love for fellow Christians does not imply we are to love those without Christ less.
The idea of “love” is capriciously and randomly used today. Football players and politicians say they love their teams or people. This is not biblical love. Many people speak of love in a romantic sense; this is not biblical love. Neither is it a feeling. Biblical love is not sharing common interests. Biblical love is both the willingness and the execution of sacrificial love for others. It has to do what is best for another person.