New! Don’t you just love the sound of that word? New songs, new homes, new seasons, new beginnings. Each kind of new carries its own special magic.
New erases the past. It comes without baggage or wear and tear. New seems so…well…easy. That is, at first. Then, reality sets in. New must be maintained. And eventually, it becomes worn. Because new cannot last.
“A new commandment, I give you;” Jesus tells His disciples (John 13:34). Can you imagine how they perked up their ears? They had seen Him do amazing things. And now, He had something new for them. Wonder what it was? Would it promise power, or glory, or greatness?
The translated new in this passage is kainos, which means “novel, fresh, unused.” It points to something previously unknown, unprecedented, never before known to exist.”
So just what was this new command? Jesus simply says: “Love one another.” Whaaat? That’s it? Any good Jew knew that love was commanded. Loving God. Loving your neighbor. What was new or novel about that?
But let’s look at the context. Jesus had just given the disciples a hands-on lesson on servanthood by washing their feet. A rather shocking object lesson since foot-washing was a task reserved for the lowliest servant—something akin to scrubbing toilets. The King of Kings stooped that low. Why?
The Key Word Study Bible –a wonderful study aid I lovingly call “My Big Fat Greek Bible”— explains it this way: “While the commandment to love was not new (See Lev.19: 18-34), to love as demonstrated by the self-sacrifice of Jesus was unprecedented.”
Self-sacrifice. Laying down one’s life for another. Serving in a way that costs us something. Becoming less than so someone else can be greater. This kind of love never goes out of style. Never wears out. Never fails.
I’ve been pondering the weight of this commandment. It’s my watchword for today:
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 NIV).
I’m not sure I fully grasp all that it means, but I know this love is costly. What does it look like to be a “doer” of this Word? Maybe it means serving in secret so someone else can shine. Or sacrificing my “want to” for the sake of another.
This much I do know: This brand of love can’t be posted on social media. It starts at home, with my family. Then, moves outward to the Body of Christ—God’s family. If I can’t live out this new command where no one is watching, then nothing else I do matters.
Maybe this quiet, costly kind of love will be your witness today—your testimony. Let’s begin with those close up. Then lift up our eyes to see the hurting and broken around us. They are noticing the price tag on the kind love we show one another. I believe, deep down, they are thirsty for that same kind of love.