Some of Jesus’ most memorable words are his commandment to love others. John puts it like this:
” ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’” John 13:34-35 NIV
These words are far easier to read than they are to live out in community. But to fully comprehend them we need to understand the context in which Jesus spoke them.
They were spoken as part of the Last Supper narratives in the Upper Room just before his death on the cross. Prior to these words, Jesus humbled himself and washed the feet of his followers who were too proud to do it. Then he predicted his betrayal at the hands of Judas. Finally, just after speaking these words he predicted Peter’s denial and challenged his self-assured confidence.
Jesus’ love was uncompromising. He loved his disciples to “the end” (John 13:1). Quite literally these words can be translated as “the uttermost”. In a play on words John describes the depth and extent of Christ’s love. It gives everything to the end, even to those who betray, deny and desert him.
So, how can we possibly live like this personally or communally? The short answer is we can’t! Unless, that is Christ empowers us by the presence of his Spirit in our lives and our community. In the words of the Apostle Paul,
“the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us”.