“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34 NKJV).”
How in the world can this commandment be new? The law of loving your neighbor had been foundational and the focal point of life for thousands of years before Jesus’ declaration (Deuteronomy 6: 5 and Leviticus 19:18). The qualifier in Jesus’ new commandment is the phrase, “as I have loved you”. Oh. So how did Jesus love others? The context of John 13 reveals some poignant examples.
1. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Jesus was the master of the group yet he performed a duty reserved for servants. Humility, shown in acts of service to those below your rank is a new kind of love.
Now I know moms sacrificially serve their children every day in a multitude of ways. But maybe you could try something new. What if at some point in the next few days you did one of your child’s assigned duties and said, “I’m doing this simply because I love you.” They may not deserve it, but remember, Jesus also washed Judas’ feet, knowing full well Judas would betray Him in a matter of hours.
2. Jesus loved His betrayer. Right after Jesus washed the disciples feet, He informed them that someone there would betray Him. Jesus then fed that very person and sent him on his way. This was an enactment of Jesus’ earlier instruction: “… love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you … ” (Matthew 5:44).
Who in your life has betrayed you? A close friend, family member, church member? Someone you have served with loving humility? Someone you have fed? What do you do when such a person is responsible for your demise? This is the kind of love that Jesus COMMANDED us to offer. It’s not an option.
But how? How can you love someone like this?
I truly believe you have to return to that fact that God is love (1 John 4:8). Sometimes, it is humanly impossible to love certain people. But God does. He loves them enough He died for them. Sometimes, all you can do is pray, “God I need You to love them for me. I need you to change my heart because I haven’t a clue how to love them on my own.”
You have to be open to that change of heart. That’s where we start.
It might help to recognize there is a big difference between love and trust. Did God trust Hitler, Ted Bundy, or Al Capone? I don’t think so. Did He love them and die for them? Yes. Loving someone doesn’t mean you have to make them your bff. Remember, offenders are wounded people. They need healing. Like you, they need someone to believe they matter.
3. Love sometimes means confronting and releasing. After Jesus washed Judas’ feet, He fed him; He called him out; and then He released him. We usually think of love as something warm and huggy. We know it includes forgiveness and thinking the best of people. But it can also means letting them go.
Your enemy may never change. If you have done all you can to forgive, serve, and confront that person—demonstrated righteous love every way you know how to—it may be time to release them. Be careful. You don’t want to cut them off too soon. Jesus, after all, spent three years with Judas. But you also don’t need to hold close someone who is causing damage.
Don’t hold yourself captive to their response. You must find your sense of security in Jesus’ love for you. We all have people who misjudge us, slander us, and reject us. It’s a part of life and it never feels good. But our Father in Heaven ALWAYS loves us! So when you feel the sting of rejection and the stab of betrayal, RUN to the arms of your Father. And remember, Jesus knows all about betrayal.
4. God’s plan is always bigger than betrayal. Moments after Jesus issued the “new commandment”, He and the eleven disciples went to the Mount of Olives where Jesus was betrayed. A few days later, He was crucified, bringing salvation to the world.
Recovering from a betrayal can seem impossible—the rend in your heart so searing and deep, it won’t heal. But remember, Jesus demonstrated with His very life that betrayal can always lead to redemption.
5. This new kind of love means laying down your life. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). We’ve all heard stories of heroes taking the bullet for someone else. I believe if called upon, most of us would do the same. Yet few of us will ever need to. But what about laying down our preferences, our entitlements, our agendas for others? This, too, is great love.
As a mom, you have done this countless times. If you question your ability to love, then I encourage you to review the times you have put others’ desires ahead of your own. I’m not advocating being a doormat. I’m saying that most moms forget, sometimes, how loving they really are. It’s not always a feel-good job. You’ve endless chores to accomplish, arguments to resolve, and discipline to dole out. It is no wonder you often feel more like a monster than a mom. So, give yourself some credit as you grade yourself in the love department.
Yes, this is a different kind of love than the disciples had ever before considered:
Humble service, even to those who don’t deserve it;
Loving your enemies;
Releasing those unwilling to receive your love;
Forgiving your betrayers in faith that God has a greater plan in mind;
Laying down your life.
You can’t give what you don’t have. So start with receiving Christ’s love for you. Soak it in deep. Give yourself credit for ways you already are loving as Christ demonstrated. Then at the most difficult times work, hand-in-hand with the God of Perfect Love, and walk out this new kind of love by faith.
copyright February 2016 by Cheri Johnson