I have a question…
But first, check out these two verses, one from Leviticus and one from the Gospel of John…
Leviticus 19:18 (ESV)
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
John 13:34 (ESV)
“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.”
QUESTION: What is the difference between these two verses?
Have you (Christian) ever really thought about it before? If you haven’t, my hope is that you will be further motivated to express God’s command to love…
Here’s what is obviously similar regarding the above verses…
Both command love.
Also, both come directly from God (John was quoting Jesus… who is God).
They seem the same, right?
However, upon closer look, Jesus (almost 1,500 years later) describes the command to love as being a “new” command.
So, what’s new about it?
In Leviticus, the command to “love your neighbor” was given to the Israelites by God right after He had differentiated them from the pagan nations around them in Leviticus 18.
Then, they were called to be holy. The call to be holy wasn’t given to anyone else.
Why do I say this?
If we go back a few verses, we get the context…
Leviticus 19:1-2 (ESV)
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”
“All the congregation of the people of Israel” were the people in view.
So, who were the people being spoken to in John 13:34?
The remaining 11 disciples, after Judas (the son of Simon Iscariot) had left the final Passover meal early, in order to betray Jesus (John 13:1-35).
So, that’s one difference, the audience.
Jesus tells the 11 to “love one another.” Then, in verse 35, Jesus gives more clarity. He tells the 11 that an outward expression of love for one another will demonstrate to “all people” that they are His disciples (“all people” includes people, then and now, who are akin to those whom God differentiated the Israelites from in Leviticus 18)…
John 13:35 (ESV)
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John, the writer of this Gospel, would later reveal the corporate nature of this command regarding the church, further unpacking the spiritual implications of a communally expressed love amongst the brethren (1 John 3:11-23, 4:7-21).
So, what else is different in comparing Leviticus 19:18 and John 13:34?
A fuller sense of love.
Notice that in Leviticus 19:18, the Israelites are to love their neighbor as yourself. But, in John 13:34, the 11 disciples are to love one another just as I have loved you.
Loving as Christ loved wasn’t something that could have been introduced at the time when Leviticus was made available.
Because, the Messiah had not yet come.
Therefore, this later, greater revelation of what is involved in fulfilling love, which was commanded to the 11 (and ultimately to all Christians), had to wait 1,500 years.
But now, since He has come, lived the exampled life that could not be lived by anyone else, was crucified, died, was buried, and then resurrected three days later as prophesied, we now can love as He has loved us, because His work was done for us for His glory.
The Apostle Paul would later reiterate this same new and powerful concept when writing to the church in Ephesus…
Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2 (ESV)
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
And… who is Paul talking to?
Ephesians 1:1 (ESV)
“To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus…”
If we (Christians) also are “saints,” those who are “faithful in Christ Jesus,” then is it correct to say that we also ought to be “imitators of God,” walking in love “as Christ loved us,” yes?
So, how do we learn how to love as Christ loves?
Look at Christ’s life in the scriptures, and be imitators of Him. Look to what the Apostles wrote about Jesus, and what they instructed the church about how to live. And most of all, look at what Jesus Himself said…
Matthew 11:29 (ESV)
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
After all, everything commanded in the Old Testament depends upon the command to love…
Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)
“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.””
1 Corinthians 13 (ESV)
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Romans 13:8-10 (ESV)
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.””
There was certainly something “new” that was commanded by Jesus.
Paster Paul A.Kaiser, in California, turned this blog into a sermon that he gave on Oct 2, 2016. He had contacted me and asked if he could use it. Of course, I said… “Yes!” I was so blessed by this, there are no words to describe it. This is the link to his sermon…
Godspeed, to the brethren!