The preacher John Ruskin Clark said it well: “Love as ‘agape,’ an accepting relationship to others for their own sake and not a passion for another for one’s own sake, is the central concept of Jesus and of New Testament Christianity.”
When Jesus was asked what was the greatest of the Old Testament laws, He answered with two—to love God wholeheartedly and love neighbors unconditionally. If we could ask Paul to summarize the whole Law in one expression, he would quote what he wrote to the Galatians—to love one’s neighbor as one’s self is the fulfillment of the whole Law (Gal. 5:14).
On the last night Jesus spent with His disciples, He taught them what would be the supreme testimony of their commitment to Him before the world—their love for one another. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34–35).
According to Jesus, love is a revelation. Although loving one’s neighbor was an Old Testament imperative (Lev. 19:18), Jesus gives us a new commandment. What gives this revelation of love freshness is the meaning He infused into the command in a new context of obedience. He calls us to an even higher definition of love.
Love is also a reflection. The old expression is now explained by a new example. The extent to which Jesus loves us is the model of the kind of love we are to have for others. No one has ever felt so deeply nor sacrificed more for those He has chosen than our Savior. Like a prism refracting multiple colors, our love for others should be a reflection of how we have been loved by Christ.
Finally, love is a relationship. Repeated three times in two verses is the phrase “one another.” One Greek word for “another” means “another of a different kind,” and a different word means “another of the same kind.” The latter is what Jesus used to express a special relationship we share with others because we share a special relationship with Christ. We are commanded to love within the relationships of the church, and we are called as the church to love those who have not yet come to Christ.
This issue of Kindred Spirit seeks to spotlight the intersection between the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Our privileged responsibility to love reflects the transforming work of the gospel of Jesus Christ both inside and outside the church.