A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
These words fall strangely on our ears. A commandment to love! We have placed law and love in contrast, and have imagined affection to be below our reach. Yet Jesus enforces love. We are, therefore, reminded that love is within our own reach. Christ lays it upon us not as an ideal which we may admire, and which may exert some kind of influence on us, nor as a standard which we may attain to in heaven; but as a commandment. In what sense can it be called a new commandment? Surely in the old dispensation God commanded love. The newness of the law may be found in the prominent position which is given to it, and the standard set before us. The first fruit of the Spirit named in the list of graces is love. Christ especially singles out this affection as being illustrative of His own character, and giving most effectual testimony to Him.
I. IN WHAT FORM MAY THIS NEW COMMANDMENT BE FULFILLED? — "As I have loved on you." Study the love of Christ. His love showed itself —
1. In a generous appreciation of the characters of those around Him. In that little group there existed the utmost differences. You find a publican like Matthew, a man with very dim perceptions like Philip; a determined and resolute doubter like Thomas; a boastful man like Peter, etc. These are men from whom we should be inclined to shrink, but Christ could appreciate them all. Be quick, like Christ, to see virtues, and slow to see faults. Generous appreciation will encourage public men to hold their position. It will encourage men of worth, who are retiring in disposition, to come to the front and bear their share of public duty. Unkind criticism will keep in the background men who can best serve the Church and commonwealth. This generous appreciation is a wonderful force to elevate society. Suspicion has a tendency to create what it suspects. If you suspect a lad of untruthfulness, you are tempting him to falsehood. If high estimates are formed of us by others, we are encouraged to rise to the estimate.
2. In patient endurance! "When reviled He reviled not again." We are to forbear one another and to forgive one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven us. If we are doing good work we cannot afford to be turned aside by any unkindness. God has overcome our evil with His good, and turned the hostile forces of our nature into helpful influences for His purposes. Thus seek to conquer the evil which you have to endure by good. It is the noblest of all triumphs.
3. In unselfish service.
(1) In little deeds of kindness, of which sometimes the recipients shall know nothing, but which shall bring some fresh gladness and hope into their lives.
(2) In words. What did God give you the power of speech for? Is it to hide your feelings? Love will die like a smothered fire if you give it no expression.
(3) In looks. If your face is dull, sad, cross, to the extent of your influence you are saddening all that come within your circle.
II. WHAT WILL BE THE RESULT OF SUCH CHRIST-LIKE LOVE?
1. That you can sympathise with God. On many sides of the Divine nature you cannot sympathise with Him.
(1) With His mighty power, for you have not an arm like His.
(2) With Divine wisdom.
(3) With burning purity.
(4) But you can sympathise with His love. You can feel for men as God feels for them.
2. That you will show your union with Christ (ver. 35). No Christian grace exercises so much influence on the thoughts of men. They are not able to appreciate Christian holiness, prayerfulness, zeal; but Christlike love they can.
3. Such love will gladden your own life as well as the lives of others. There is perhaps no joy greater than that of loving. The bliss of the blessed God lies chiefly in His loving heart.
(C. B. Symes, B. A.)
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.