Thursday, April 13, 2006

A New Commandment

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)
We have come to the end of the season of Lent. Today is Holy Thursday, which commemorates the institution of the Lord's Supper. It is also called Maundy Thursday because of the new commandment Jesus gave His disciples to love one another (maundy comes from an Old Latin term for “mandate” or “command”).

One day, a scribe asked Jesus which was the first and greatest commandment. Jesus answered:
The first of all the commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD you God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31)
James, the brother of the Lord Jesus, understood the law of love: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well” (James 2:8).

John, who has been called the “apostle of love,” also understood this very well. In his first letter, he wrote:
Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:7-10)
In his Gospel, John called Jesus “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9). In Christ we no longer belong to the darkness, which is passing away, but are of the light, which is already shining. The essence and expression of this light is love. Those who do not love are living in darkness; those who walk in love are those who walk in the light of Christ — it is, in fact, his love which is being expressed through them.

The apostle Paul was captured by the commandment of love:
Owe no one anything except to love one another; for he 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 bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Love does not harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 8-10)

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)
Love is about much more than refraining from harming another. Love is proactive — it is the nature of love to give and to serve.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13)

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
Tomorrow, Good Friday, we will celebrate the greatest act of love: The Father gave his Son; the Son gave his life to save us from our sins and the power of death. But on the night he was betrayed, and abandoned by all, and knowing full well what was about to happen, he gave this commandment to his disciples: “Love one another.”

In Jesus Christ, we belong, not to that which is passing away, but to that which has already begun to shine. When we walk in love, we are abiding in the light of Christ.

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