Summary: They will know we are Christians by our love more than by anything else.
They Will Know
As ‘life’ and ‘light’ are key words in the first twelve chapters of John, ‘love’ is the key word in chapters 13-17. Love is not merely advised or exemplified; it is commanded. Christ commanded his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you: (Matt. 28. 19-20). He commanded them “to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10.42). The primary emphasis in Jesus’ commands is love.
He commands it in John 13.34-35. In addition, we read: “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14.21). “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide n his love” (John 15.10). “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, must as he has commanded us. All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them” (1 John 3.23-24). John was certainly impressed with Jesus’ emphasis on love, so it is no surprise to us that tradition says that love was John’s theme in his old age.
1. A new commandment.
Loving your neighbour as you love yourself is not new. The Old Testament taught: Lev. 19.18.
Jesus taught that one must love his neighbour better than himself: John 15.13.
The newness of this commandment was that it was based on the love between Jesus and the Father.
John 10.17-18; 14.31.
The love Jesus is talking about is not saccharine sweet. It is not mere emotion. The love he commands is the kind of love that cost him his live on the cross. No wonder love has been called the greatest thing in the world. I’ve heard a preacher cry as he told a story of a dog dying for his master. It would have been a better illustration of Jesus’ love if it had been a master dying for his dog. Parents have died for children and children for parents. Husbands and wives have died for each other. A better illustration is one who died for his enemy.
Rom. 5. 7-8
Jesus is talking about a new kind of love. To whatever extent church fellowships can approach that kind of love, they will be moving closer to the greatest revolution in Church history.
2. A new witness.
When an evangelist asked a new convert, “Was there some one thing I said tonight that helped you reach your decision?” the young lady said, “Honestly, I don’t remember much you said. It was a telephone call from my parents today. When I saw how much they loved me in spite of the way I have treated them, I said there must be something to being a Christian.”
Jesus said: John 13.35!
I once heard a good sermon on the parallels between the great commandment and the Great Commission. The thesis was that loving one’s neighbour and trying to lead the neighbour to Christ were equally important. In a sense he was correct, but it would be more correct to say that the Great Commission issues out of the great commandment. We witness because we love. We can go after new members for the church like a businessman goes after customers or like a politician goes after voters, but that is not evangelism. When we go because the love of Christ constrains us, we are evangelists. Not only, however, is love the best ‘motive’ for evangelism, it is the best ‘method’. If we love, we win! During this Festival, we’ll consider how to do this better, so we can be more fully engaged in God’s winning team effort!