Let's read verses 12-13 and verse 17 of John 15: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. … These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
Now, if you've been following along with us as we've been going through the gospel of John, the way Jesus words Himself here should sound familiar. It's very similar to what He said back in John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
So, why would Jesus repeat Himself in our text? What's the point? He's said it once. Why say it again?
Repetition is a very important learning tool.
Jesus repeated Himself because He was—and is—the Master Teacher. He knew the key to learning was repetition. Jesus repeated Himself because He knew His disciples would have to hear more than once that they were to love one another.
It's hard to love one another as Christ loved us.
Because of our sin nature, we gravitate towards selfishness. During the Last Supper, Jesus's disciples got into an argument over which one of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24). So, if the disciples had a hard time displaying Christlike love to one another, how much more do we need this truth repeated to us?
Being a friend of Jesus means loving one another as He loves us.
In John 15, Jesus is expounding on John 14:23, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word." Jesus is saying if we love Him and keep His word, we are His friend. One of the characteristics of being a friend of Jesus is to "love one another as I [Jesus] have loved you."
This is a command, not an option.
Jesus commands us to love one another. But how can we obey that command? Love is a feeling. Right? So, how can He command us to feel a certain way towards another person?
God's perspective of love is different than ours. Biblical love involves deciding to act for the benefit of someone else, no matter how we feel about that person. This kind of love is compassionate, considerate, kind, whatever it takes to minister to the other person—no matter how we feel. That is the love Jesus commands.
But this kind of love is so much more than performing simple acts that benefit others. After all, that is relatively easy. It's so much more than that. We are to love as He loved us.
What does that mean exactly?
Oftentimes, when we think of how Jesus loved us, our thoughts go to the cross. It's the ultimate display of God's sacrificial, selfless love to undeserving sinners. But have you ever taken the time to consider how difficult it was for Jesus to love His disciples while He was here on earth?
Think about it. They could be quarrelsome, ambitious, and selfish. They insulted Jesus, ignored Him, and at times, disobeyed Him. We wouldn't naturally feel loving towards someone like that. That's why Jesus said to them, "How long must I be with you?" (Matthew 17:17; Mark 9:19; Luke 9:41). It wasn't easy to be around them. And you know what? The disciples were just like us.
How was Jesus able to love the disciples who weren't easy to be around? How is He able to love us when we constantly fall into sin?
John 15:9 says, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love."
Jesus abided in the Father's love. And we must abide in Jesus's love. Abiding in His love is the key to loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. We're able to love others, despite their faults, because Christ loves us despite ours. So, if you know Jesus loves you despite how much of a sinner you are, then you have no excuse not to love others as well, sacrificially and selflessly.
It isn't easy. Jesus's strength came from His Father. The Bible tells us He would go off on His own to pray. During those times, He would be renewed in the Father's love. He would be refreshed, energized, and encouraged. Then He would come back and again endure the foolishness of men.
And that's how we're to love people who aren't easy to love. When we struggle to love someone biblically, in a way that truly benefits the other person, no matter how you feel about them, we must remember Christ's love for us.
We are to think of the cross, but also of how much He cares for us despite our foolishness and futilities. We are to think of how He supports us and acknowledges us as His children. How much He provides for us and disciplines us.
We can then rejoice as the apostle Paul did in Romans 5:5, "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit."
When we love people the way Christ loves us, we display the first characteristic of being a friend of Jesus.