A Strange Command
“This is my command: Love each other.”
John 15:17 (NIV)
If we wanted to know the essential message of Jesus, to sum up in one sentence what he wanted us to know and to do above everything else, here we have it: “This is my command: Love each other.” In a nut shell this is what Christianity is all about. For Christians this is a non-negotiable command.
But I have to say on first reading I find it a rather strange command. After all, how can anyone be commanded to love someone else? Surely love is a voluntary thing. It’s an instinctive response, a chemical reaction. It can’t be forced, coerced or engineered, can it? Either you love someone or you don’t. If I’m commanded to love someone is that real love?
Clearly Jesus was talking here of something more profound than the type of ‘love’ we might read about in a romantic novel, or witness on TV in the soaps. Jesus was referring to something that is costly and demanding. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) Just as God gave himself to us in Jesus, so he calls us to give ourselves to him through our loving service to others. That is the greatest expression of love: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Verse13)
The word ‘love’ is primarily a verb, not a noun. It’s a ‘doing word’. In the ‘love chapter’, the apostle Paul doesn’t define love in a philosophical sense, rather he tells us what love does: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Christian love is not about warm feelings and mutual attraction. It’s about how we interact with one another. It’s about attitudes. How we affirm everyone. How we recognise potential and worth. Whether we treat people with dignity and respect, or dismiss them as ‘a waste of space’. Christian love recognises that every human being should be treated fairly. This is not easy to accomplish, especially with people we may not particularly like or have wronged us in some way. It’s far easier to ignore such people. Perhaps this is why Jesus is commanding us to do it?
The commandment of Jesus is to love one another as he loved us. It’s only in the sure and certain knowledge that we are loved by him that we will be able to love. If that were not the case, it would be impossible.
Father, help us to realise how much Jesus loves us so that we can participate in his love to others. May we seek this greater gift with the confidence that love never fails.
Study by Barry Robinson
Worldwide Church of God Camberwell
The Salvation Army Hall
105 Lomond Grove
Saturday 11 am
Local Congregational Contact: