Today, let's begin by reading John 13:33. Jesus said, "Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, 'Where I am going you cannot come.'"
For the first time in His ministry, Jesus gave the disciples a new name, "little children." This was not a derogatory title, as if He was telling grown men they were acting like children. Instead, this is a tender word, a family word.
Most commentators agree it was at this moment that our Lord began to institute the Passover meal, and what we call the Lord's Supper. Throughout Israel, Jewish families were gathering to eat the Passover lamb. It was traditional then, as it is today, for the father to act as the host for the family and invite the children to ask questions that revealed the meaning of what was going on.
Jesus was talking to His disciples as the head of the family in which the disciples were the children. He said, "Where I am going you cannot come" (v. 33). Within 12 hours, He would be hanging upon a cross. In less than 20 hours, He would be cold and dead, lying in the tomb. Where Jesus was going, they could not go.
This is a beautiful picture of a caring father explaining to His children that He has to go away for a while. But He promises they'll be reunited later.
We are to treat others gently, as Jesus did. We are to follow the instructions in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, "For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us."
In John 13:34, Jesus went on to say, "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."
If human beings truly loved one another, think of the horrors that would disappear: broken marriages, child abuse, human trafficking, senseless destruction, drug trafficking, and all other evils.
But on our own, we can't love with this kind of love. In fact, Jesus was speaking to His disciples and, by extension, to all believers. Now, we are to love unbelievers. Scripture makes that clear (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:17-21). Jesus loves the world but has a special love, a different love, for those the Father gave Him (John 6:37). So, just like Jesus has loved us, we are to have a special love, a different love, for fellow Christians.
Jesus is saying that His love for us will stimulate and awaken within us the ability to love one another. His love is be the motivator and the measure of authentic love.
How can we love like Jesus loved? What does that love look like?
First, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, Jesus loves you. He didn't love only those who were easy to love. He chose to love those others rejected. Those who were difficult to love, looked down upon, and held in contempt by society. He loved them not because He wanted to be loved bac but because they needed to be loved. Loving one another includes loving people who aren't easy to love.
Second, actions speak louder than words. Our deeds express the love of Christ more than our words alone. It doesn't matter how loving we feel. It doesn't matter how much we talk about loving others. It doesn't matter how many hymns we sing about loving one another. None of that matters if we're not showing it.
In Matthew 25:34-35, Jesus said, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me."
Third, we're not to stop loving each other. This is how the apostle described the love of Christ in John 13:1: "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end."
His love never ends. And that should define our love for each other. If Jesus were to stop loving us, we would cease to exist. Love is that important.
If we're to love one another as Christ loved us, we must love one another—in word and deed—without restriction. "Love one another, as I have loved you" is a command, not a suggestion.
The fact that Jesus commanded us to love this way means we can do it. There are no excuses if we fail to do it. The key here, though, is that we can't do it in our own strength. Only believers can love this way because the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of love in us. Just as Christ was obedient, sacrificing Himself on the cross for our salvation, we are to be obedient, sacrificing ourselves for one another.
The Lord doesn't give us any wiggle room. We've been given the ability to love. So, we must love like Jesus. Granted, it isn't easy. I've counseled wives who say they no longer love their husband and husbands who say they no longer love their wife. That does not, however, nullify the Lord's command to love one another. And we can do so in His strength—in struggling marriages and other difficult relationships.
We must look to Jesus. Those who learn to enjoy His love, who wrestle with it, rejoice in it, feel the warmth of it, and remind themselves they do not deserve it are the ones who display the love of Christ even to those who don't love them in return. This kind of dramatic, life-changing love is authentic Christlike love.
How can we love as Jesus loved? There is a tract called "Four Spiritual Laws." It shows a diagram in which the engine is God's Word, the coal car is faith, and the caboose is feelings. The train will run only if we put our faith in God's Word. Then, good feelings will follow. But we can't run the train on good feelings, which come and go. When we obey God's Word and begin to love others sacrificially, the feelings follow.
We can't stop obeying the commandment to love one another just because it's difficult, because we don't feel like it. Jesus dreaded going to the cross. He knew the physical torment He would experience. He knew He would have to go through the spiritual anguish of being separated from His Father for the first time in eternity. We should be thankful that Jesus didn't follow His feelings.
His love is costly, it's caring, and we're commanded to love one another as He loved us.