By Collin Ross
If you’ve ever interacted with a toddler, you know that they love the question, “Why?”. On various occasions, I’ve been on the receiving end of a flurry of these questions on repeat. With each explanation, the little tyke digs deeper into my internal processes, uncovering before my very eyes the reasons for my actions. The questions continue until I hit my foundational motivation––the point of origin for whatever behavior was undergoing such a passionate examination.
When Jesus gives His “new command” (John 13:34), He’s not offering any new instruction—God’s people already had been told to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus is not pointing to a new work for His disciples to pursue. Rather, He points to a new motivation that will fuel their love. “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another” (John 13:34).
As a Christian, Jesus commands that every one of my acts of love be informed by His love for me. Knowing this, I experience two simultaneous responses. First, my knees buckle at the weight of responsibility that this command generates. When it comes to showing love to my brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus gives no room for doing anything half-heartedly. I can’t honestly say that the love of Christ informs my love for others when I try to exert the least amount of effort and sacrifice as little as possible. Faithfully living in Christian community is more costly than I often want.
But even as I feel the weight of my responsibility to love, I am simultaneously buoyed by the reality of Christ’s love for me. I’ve always found it easier to show love in the same ways that I have received it. For example, my wife and I have moved six times in nine years. Each time, a host of friends came to help lift and load our belongings. Because I’ve been blessed repeatedly in this way, I strive to make myself available for others who are moving. The actual activity of lifting and carrying heavy objects is not any easier physically, and yet my heart has been made more willing to sacrifice for the sake of others, because someone first sacrificed for me.
We find this same dynamic in our Christian living. We have a great responsibility to love the family sitting in the next pew, and we’re drawn to do so by virtue of our own experience of the love of Christ. His love is our foundational motivation.
In this study, we start here, because all other “one anothers” are expressions of Christ’s new command (v.34). When we serve, correct, forgive, or encourage one another, we are manifesting the love that our Savior calls for. There’s only one power that can fuel this life prescribed by our Lord: His unyielding love for you and me.