A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
I. ITS PRINCIPLE. We are to have love like that of Christ.
1. In one sense this is impossible. "Measure the waters in the hollow of thine hand; mete out heaven with a span," etc. — these are measurable things, but the love of Christ is measureless. To love like Paul — like John — would be a lofty aim, but who can love like Christ?
2. He asks not that our love should equal, but resemble His; not that it should be of the same strength, but of the same kind. A pearl of dew will not hold the sun, but it may hold a sparkle of its light. A child, by the sea, trying to catch the waves, cannot hold the ocean in a tiny shell, but he may hold a drop of the ocean water. "There is an ocean of love in My heart," says Christ, "let a drop of that ocean be received into yours."
3. Divine love, therefore, is but another name for that Divine life which animates all the disciples. None need despair of his ability to obey his Lord's will, for Christ gives the love which He commands, and you need only ask in order to have (Ephesians 3:14-19).
II. THE MODE OF ACTION it prescribes. If we love as Christ loves —
1. We shall be ready to love others before they love us. If He had waited until we loved Him, where should we now have been? "Herein is love, not that we loved Him, but that He loved us." His love explains His death, but what can explain His love? Sublime as it is, our love must acknowledge no lower law.
2. Our love will be a practical thing. Some are in danger of becoming mere religious sentimentalists. They feel much, but do little. They are ready for sympathy, but not for sacrifice. They are the sensitive plants of the Church, and not fruit-bearing trees of righteousness. This fine sensibility, cherished for its own sake, and having no outforce in deeds for the good of others, both weakens the soul and itself. "Abiding alone," it is but soft effeminacy or weak indulgence; luxury, not love. Christ has not said, "By love feel for one another," merely; but "By love serve one another." Let us interpret His law by His life. His love speaks to us through a glorious deed; then our love, like His, must speak through action. His love found expression through a sacrifice; then ours must express itself through sacrifice. His love was displayed when "He bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows;" then, "bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." Redemption was His own personal act. Then our love is not to have a mere representative utterance.
3. Our love will be humble. All love is lowly. You often see a loving purpose kept in cheek by a haughty will, and the ice of pride seal the river of love. You have seen the father and son proudly stand apart. Each yearns to fling himself into the other's embrace, but pride forbids the younger to confess his fault, and the elder his sorrowful tenderness. But where love lives in its strength it will be stronger than death. It will come down, cast aside state and ceremony, submit to a thousand indignities, stoop to save, and "stand at the door and knock." If you would know what humility can do, study redeeming love, and though Christ sits enthroned on the riches of the universe His heart is still unchanged. Like the sunshine that falls with magical flicker on pearl and ruby, lance and armour, in the royal hall — yet overflows the shepherd's home, and quivers through the grating of the prisoner's cell — floods the noblest scenes with day, yet makes a joy for the insect — so does the Saviour's love, not deterred by our unworthiness, come down to teach and bless the meanest and the lowliest life in the new creation.
4. Our love must be bountiful. Love can never do enough for its object. When you were lost, "unsearchable riches" were poured forth as the price of your redemption. When you were found, what was the language of the Heart of Hearts? "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him," etc. When, therefore, your heart is disposed to give a brother disciple but a scanty and penurious affection remember "Freely ye have received, freely give."
5. We shall breathe a spirit of gentleness and patience towards the erring or offending members of the Christian brotherhood. The effects flowing from the violation of this principle might fill a library with sad histories.
6. We shall love all the disciples. Christ is not now speaking of His universal love, but of His peculiar and discriminating love to those who have accepted Him, and who are already partakers of His life. He loves them, as you love your child none the less because it is now only learning to read, or just beginning, with many a fall, to totter along alone. He loves all His disciples, and all are His disciples, who, however they differ in other respects, unite in the sentiment, "for us to live is Christ."
7. Our love will last forever. Whom He loves He always loves. This is an inference from His nature.
III. ITS NOVELTY. It is a new commandment —
1. As it enjoins love after a new model. Love had always been commanded, but never before had it been so exemplified.
2. As it is addressed to a peculiar class of God's subjects, and is a law for the new creation alone. The old commandments were given to the world this new commandment to the Church.
3. As it arose out of a new necessity, and was intended to be the distinguishing sign of Christ's disciples. To prevent confusion, and secure a defined place in society, each office and every class has its peculiar sign. "As every lord giveth a certain livery to his servants, charity is the very livery of Christ. Our Saviour, which is the Lord above all lords, would have His servants known by their badge, which is love" (Latimer).
4. As it has a new impressiveness — an affecting power all its own. The old commandments had a power to alarm; this, when truly understood, has a power to subdue; they smote the conscience, this captivates the heart.
(C. Stanford, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.