Used at Belhaven University, River Pointe Church, prison ministry, and pastoral counseling.
Jesus said—“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
We will deal with our Lord’s commandment later in this article, but a great summary of the Bible’s teaching on loving others is found in the Westminster Confession of Faith under the section “The Fellowship of the Saints”:1
All believers are united to Jesus Christ, our Head, by His Spirit and by faith, and have fellowship with Him in His grace, suffering, death, resurrection, and glory. United to one another in love, the saints have fellowship in each other’s gifts and grace and are obliged to perform those public and private duties which nourish their mutual good, both spiritually and physically.
Connection to Christ creates a living connection to other Christ-followers. Jesus’ Church is the called out ones (separate from world) who are also called together in fellowship with the Risen Christ and with one another. What God has joined together, let no one separate. We are God’s family.
By their profession of faith, saints are bound to maintain a holy fellowship and communion with each other in the worship of God and in the performance of other spiritual services for their mutual improvement. They are also bound to help each other in material things according to their different abilities and needs. This fellowship is to be offered, as God gives the opportunity, to everyone in every place who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus….This does not take away or infringe the right each person has to own and possess goods and property.
The early Christians in Acts 2:41-47 demonstrated wonderful, loving, generous fellowship. The new believers were genuinely converted by God the Holy Spirit and immediately joined together with other believers for worship, mutual love, and service. No one had to twist their arms. The Spirit moved them to practice Christianity together. The early Christians were not communists. No one was coerced; the sharing was voluntary. They gave wholeheartedly and sacrificially like the widow Jesus commends in Luke 21:4.2
Authentic Christianity believes and practices life together as described above. In the New Testament, fellowship always means sharing, either sharing something with others, or sharing in what others are experiencing. Our Lord said: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”3 C. S. Lewis stated: The Church exists to draw people into Christ and to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, and sermons are a waste of time….The Son of God became Man to turn creatures into His sons and daughters and to change them from inside out. Not simply to produce better people of the old kind but to produce a new kind of people.4
Christ’s people long to help others,5 because the Lord is our great Helper6 and we want to resemble Him. God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) relieves, rescues, and refreshes us. And by the Spirit’s help, Christians do that with one another. What does Jesus want us to be known for? No guessing is needed; He tells us throughout the New Testament. Here are some (not all) of the one another passages numbered for ease of discussion:
1. “ Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (Jn 13:14) Christ literally did this with His disciples on the night before His crucifixion. In His day, foot washing was a task for the lowest servants. By Jesus’ example and command, He calls us to undertake lowly, thankless, menial, service to others for His sake, getting our hands dirty. Often service begins simply with listening to others, praying for them and with them, and helping them in little ways.
2. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn 13:34-35) This was not really “new” since Lev 19:18 teaches: Love your neighbor as yourself. What’s new is Jesus’ changing from “neighbor” to “one another” and changing from “as yourself” to “as I have loved you.” Our Lord raises the bar, the standard, His expectation. The greater privileges Christians have carry greater responsibilities to Christ and to other people. Our love for them must takes Jesus’ sacrificial love as the model, within the fellowship of believers and to strangers outside.
3. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” (Rom 12:10) Christ commands us to be devoted to Christians with a family kind of love, not based on their likeability, but based on our family connection in Jesus. Christ’s church is God’s household7 and practicing family love shows the world that we are Christ’s followers.8 Preferring one another means showing genuine appreciation and admiration for fellow believers by putting them first.9 Love is not self-seeking. Self-absorption kills empathy and compassion. Lord, keep us from that.
4. “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Rom 12:16). When Christians know and obey the Scriptures, we will be like-minded, not copycats of human leaders, but copycats of Christ. The more we imitate Jesus, the less we will be proud about our advantage or position. Any gifted-ness, prestige, knowledge, or blessing we have is Christ’s gift to us, so we cannot boast.10 In both Testaments, God chose to bless unwanted people and underdogs,11 so Jesus’ followers want to do the same. After the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee, knelt beside an African-American man during the Communion service. When someone asked how he could do that, Lee replied, “My friend, all ground is level at the foot of the Christ’s cross.” In this way, Gen. Lee is an excellent model for us all! Let us go and do likewise.
To be continued…
Go in peace, beloved. Walk with King Jesus today and be a blessing to others!
Notes (various translations): 1 WCF 26.1-3 EPC Version. 2 see “Was the Early Church Communist?” by Jay W. Richards. 3 John 15:13. 4 Mere Christianity (1996 edition, p. 171, adapted). 5 Prov 12:12 TLB. 6 Psalms 27:1; 40:17; 46:1; 54:4; 121:1-8; Isaiah 41:10; Heb 4:16; 13:5-6. 7 1 Tim 3:14-15; 5:1-2; 2 Tim 2:14-26. 8 John 13:34,35; 1 John 3:10,16–19. 9 Matt 20:26-27; Phil 2:1-11. 10 1 Cor 4:6-7. 11 Deut 7:7-8; 1 Cor 1:27-29.