Summary: The New Testament repeatedly tells us to "love one another," but why bother? Why do I constantly need to be reminded?
A woman once told of her experience as a Church secretary. When she answered the phone she’d say, “Jesus loves you, Sharon speaking. How may I help you?” But one day she got distracted because she was talking to others in the office. When the phone rang she answered: “Sharon loves you, Jesus speaking. How may I help you?” There was a pause on the line… and then the caller said, “Somehow I thought your voice would sound different.” (Sharon Landers, Reader's Digest12/98 p.180)
SHARON LOVES YOU… JESUS SPEAKING! She slipped up. She didn’t mean to say what she said but she did, and because she said it, we chuckle… it’s kinda funny. But there SHOULD BE truth behind her statement. There should be a truth that - in everything we say - people should sense what we’re saying is: “I LOVE YOU… Jesus speaking.”
In our text today - Jesus declared: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34
This idea – that we should love each other – permeates the New Testament. Just a few examples:
Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.
And I could go on and on and on with such Scriptures. In fact, there are 62 verses that talk about “One Anothering” (by my count) of how we ought to treat one another.
But one of the questions we should ask ourselves is this: WHY? Why would God repeatedly challenge us to love each another? Well, the most obvious answer is this: We’re not very good at it. It doesn’t come naturally to us to love others. You see, when we came to Jesus, we were fairly selfish people. Before Christ we lived lives centered on ourselves.
ILLUS: One scholar reported that although there are approximately 450,000 words in the English language, about 80% of our conversations use only about 400 words. The most common words in the English language are: “I,” “Me,” “My,” and “Mine.” (Dennis Waitley, “Empires of the Mind”)
We LIKE ourselves.
One source I read noted that building managers install mirrors in their lobbies because people complain less about waiting for slow elevators when they’re occupied looking at themselves.
WE LIKE OURSELVES… a lot.
Just a test – try looking at a group picture you’re in and ask yourself who you look for 1st? Odds are, you looked for yourself first. It’s hard not to be a little self-centered… it comes so naturally. Even THEOLOGICALLY, it’s hard (for believers) not to think of ourselves first.
Jesus says we need to focus LESS on ourselves and more on others: Philippians 2:3 “…in humility consider others better than yourselves.” So, that’s what the Jesus teaches, but EVEN religious folks struggle with that. Just as an example: Jesus said we should love one another as we love ourselves. In other words – the way we KNOW that we’ve loved others is if we’ve love them as much as we love ourselves. Now, I have heard experts (experts, mind you) try to say that this (we should love others as we love ourselves) proves that we should love OURSELVES FIRST! Because if you don’t love yourself … you can’t love others.
That almost sounds reasonable, but that’s not what Jesus was saying. Jesus was saying: IT’S A GIVEN that you love yourself. And THAT (loving yourself) is the yardstick of how you should love others.
Paul explains it this way: “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” Ephesians 5:28-29
WE LOVE OURSELVES - and thus we struggle to love others. And that’s why the Bible repeatedly says we ought to love one another. And it repeats that truth over & over again.
Now, here’s the deal - God knew we were going to tend to be selfish even after we’re saved. So He’s not telling us we’re going to get this “LOVE” thing right, right out of the box. He’s telling us loving others is our objective/ our goal. That may be why Jesus referred to this as a “NEW COMMANDMENT.” It’s “new” because it runs counter to our natural human tendencies. But now that we’re Christians - this is the NEW COMMANDMENT for us. And this new commandment is how we’ll know we’ve become mature. When we’re mature, we will have learned to think of others first. We’ll learn to love others who sometimes even annoy us.