Walk In Truth Christian Fellowship
Dr. James Sutton II
(Joh 13:33) 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.'
(Joh 13:34) 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.
(Joh 13:35) By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
(Joh 13:36) Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward."
There is an old song that asked the question, “what’s love got to do with it”? In this all love was described as a second hand emotion, usually disappointing you, leaving you with heartache and pain.
Love is much more than a second hand emotion or a firsthand sentimental experience. The 21 century love is about doing all that you can to make yourself and others around you feel good. This expression of goodness comes from first indulging in your self-righteousness and good feelings. Believing that by understanding yourself and what makes you feel love, you can transfer that feeling and expression to another.
There are many self-help books written about how to achieve a love state of mind by loving oneself. We have even reduced love to the motion of happiness. It goes something like this, “I can’t make anyone else happy until I am happy or I must love myself before I can love others”. These statements and others like them appeals to a person’s flesh and carnal nature, “to feel good”. Before I can extend myself to others I must achieve that happiness or love within myself. This could ultimately mean you would spend your whole life trying to achieve a state of happiness and love based upon your experiences, expectations and situations. Now your love has become subjective to your personal understanding of yourself psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. I would dare to say there are as many combinations as there are people. The way a person may demonstrate love will be subjective to their own reasoning of what love is.
“What does love have to do with it”, everything! God gave man the opportunity to use himself as the object of love to show love to each other. The Jews were not allowed to co-mingle or cohabitate with other races and non-believers. They were only supposed to show love inside the Israelite biological connection or those who have become proselytes. (A proselytes is a non-bloodline converted Gentile.)
God wants to expand our definition and concept of love. The object of love will now be Jesus Christ and all of its many facets. We will look at St. John chapter 13:33-36 as our main passage.
In the previous verses we have Jesus explaining to the disciples how through his death He would be glorified and also the father. He explained to his disciples how he must die at the hands of the Romans through crucifixion. Before we go any further we must ask ourselves, how can there be any glory coming from such a gruesome and horrendous death? Where is the glory in murdering a man that has done so much good, through his teachings and his healings?
The disciples through their experience had witnessed the Romans preferred execution of crucifixion. Quite naturally they would be afraid and confused. None of their expectations were being met by this man named Jesus and yet he was the son of God and their foretold Messiah. The situation was about to overload anything that they had experience or expected. Can you imagine if they were told at that point Romans 8:38. Where would the good come from killing the Messiah we’ve been waiting on. How would that bring back and restore the kingdom of David for which all Jews anticipated. Jesus did not appear to be the warrior king of righteousness to restore Israel.
Jesus being God realized that his departure from his disciples would devastate their expectation and would confirm their natural experience, in spite of witness all the miracles and signs. How we use our experiences to govern our expectations will sometimes calls us to focus on the situation and not see God’s revelation. Separation anxiety was the natural response to losing their beloved teacher and King. Jesus love so much that he understood it was for their betterment for his departure and death.
In verse 33 Jesus addresses his disciples as a loving parent giving instructions to them for his departure. All of us have experienced a time when someone we respect, love and care for have to prepare us for their departure. There will be a point in time where the relationship will change and there are some pertinent instructions that will be given by the parent. Jesus has told how he will be glorified in death and now he’s telling them why He must leave.
Jesus explained to them that he would only be with them for a short period of time they would seek, but could not find him. We have the privilege in reading the story with hindsight. The disciples were living it as it unfolded. They had witnessed Jesus telling the Jews that they would seek him and could not find Him because of their disbelief. Can you imagine knowing that He had said that before and now saying it to them without an immediate explanation. ( John 7:33)
Jesus is so intentional and purposed in God, that he did not address that bombshell at that moment. He continued on to tell them there is a new commandment to be observed. For a moment Jesus presses past their fears of experience and the expectations to give them something, “new”.
Just as we have study Isaiah 43:18-19, where God tells Israel not to remember the former things because he’s about to do a new thing. Just as in Isaiah God is about to give them a new commandment to sustain them through the impending persecutions and tribulations. Jesus is about to reveal to them where the essence of his strength to endure comes from.
This new commandment which is so foundational to the Christian perspective of life does not encompass any of our normal worldly understandings or experience. What I mean by this is, of all the things to talk about in my wildest imagination love would not be at the top of the list. Based on what’s going on and what Jesus has just said, where does love fit in my experience and expectation as a man would lead me to believe that he would tell me something that would increase my ability to be able to endure physical and mental stress. Your response and understanding might be totally different from mine, but I would bet love would not be at the top of your list. Jesus gives them a new commandment, that expands beyond their natural and spiritual understanding. Let’s look at what they were told about love in Leviticus 19:18.
(Lev 19:18) You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
In the above passage we see the parameters of the instructions of love in regards to the Israelites. The first thing we notice the love described is used to prevent quarrels and disharmony in the body of Israel. It’s a commandment given in response to Israel’s inability to truly love one another as their self. As we know there was much disharmony with inside the nation of Israel. There was a separation gap between the people and their leaders at different points throughout the history of this chosen nation. Now as I look at it today I would not actually want someone to love me as they love themselves. It sounds good, but in reality we spent a lot of time in America destroying ourselves and hurting others all for what we believe love is.
The love constructed by Moses was subject to each person’s interpretation. Even if they had a concept of sacrificial love, how far would that love extend. They were surrounded by their enemies on all sides and at times simply annihilated them. They would enslave their men and women and decimate their culture. The only love they believe they could show was towards each other and it was always subjective. There was no such love for the enemies of Israel. This is quite a contradictory statement in comparison to what the New Testament teaches, “love your enemies”! ( Matthew 5:43-48)
(Mat 5:43) "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
(Mat 5:44) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
(Mat 5:45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
(Mat 5:46) For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
(Mat 5:47) And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
(Mat 5:48) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus continues to expand the notion of love out towards our enemies. This statement was foreign to the ears of the Israelites, just as it is to us now. Who really loves their enemies and what does that entail? The limits and boundaries that were very clear before has now been expanded beyond my experience or imagination. The disciples have now been given a direction of their love that is progressive and challenging. The logical question would be, who would we hold up as our example to loving our enemies. You have to remember it has not been written that the world and everyone in it has been and will be a natural enemy of God Hebrew or Gentile. ( 1 Corinthians 2:14) (Romans 5:10) (Colossians 1:21)
Our obedience to God has always been the method and the means by which we demonstrate our love to him. This love goes way beyond the sentimentality of the 21 century love and has little to nothing to do with emotions. John 14:15 states, “if you love me keep my commandments.” The reality is scriptural love is only achieved by adhering to the Commandments of Jesus Christ.
The old commandment was insufficient because it relied on subjective men. A man’s heart is darkened with sin and deceitful. How can he love his neighbor into the light when he is full of darkness. Darkness produces darkness until the invasion of light. This light, the new object of love is now found in Jesus Christ. One man who was righteous would sacrifice his life for the unrighteous. The Messiah’s love would not be subject to the bounds of the behavior of the recipient or its ability to reciprocate in any fashion. Let me put it in another way, God’s love does not depend on anything that you do or will do. You cannot merit the love that God has demonstrated towards a lost and darkened mankind. ( Romans 5:6-8)
(Rom 5:6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
(Rom 5:7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—
(Rom 5:8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We now see that love has expanded into becoming sacrificial, to the point of death. Jesus sacrificial death was sufficient to pay for all the Sins of the world, but only efficacious to those who would believe. Once our father Adam was tainted by sin he could no longer be our propitiation to God. Adam propelled man in an ever widening gulf between the creator God and his creation man.
Now that the opportunity for salvation was near, Jesus understood that the only way his disciples could withstand the pressures of this world was to first love each other as he had demonstrated his love to them. With all the spiritual guidance that Jesus provided to them, they were about to embark on their greatest mission of all. They did not comprehend or fully grasp what was about to happen. Just like an Olympic athlete or a prize fighter, they endure great discipline and hardship in training to perform and complete against strong enemies and competitors. In boxing the opponent is actually trying to knock you unconscious or punch you into submission. In Olympic competition your competitors are trying to do better than you to win the gold. Even though there are many different sports in the Olympics and many different ways of fighting, they have one thing in common. They love what they are doing and they respect and follow the instructions of those who came before them. All that Jesus was about to endure was going to be experienced by his disciples. While they were looking for a king, what they got was a servant. They didn’t realize how much they would have to suffer and endure persecution for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. The suffering of the trained disciples would be the test on earth of their commitment, character and conduct. ( Luke 23:31)
Those were called into discipleship will be trained by God and will be empowered by the Holy Spirit. In their training they suffer for the sake of the gospel and the salvation of the people. As Paul trained Timothy to be a pastor, he explained that he had to endure everything. ( 2 Timothy 2:10)
It is interesting to notice that there is a strength that comes from suffering in love. Those things which most people seem to let go of others hold on to. When we love something even in our Western society we believe it’s worth fighting for. How much more if we claim to love God, the gospel and his people we should always be willing to contend for the faith. ( 1 Peter 3:13-17)
How far is Jesus willing to go for his disciples in understanding and loving them. Christ was willing to die and suffer a horrific execution as the example of the perfect love. It is easy to imagine a parent dying for their children, but a friend is another case. Are you willing to sacrifice all of your personal aspirations and die to self to save a friend? A friend is someone we have decided to love and care for under social interaction. A brother or sister will always be that to you because of bloodline. Friends are consciously determine by each individual and sometimes friendships expires. What I mean by this is, there are circumstances where your friendship is not the same as it was yesterday or even a year ago. It’s not necessarily because of anything that is of ill will or problems between the two. True friendship just as siblings does not depend upon proximity of physical location. Based upon the person and the maintaining of the relationship between the two. Some of my friends I haven’t talked to in years, but the minute we began to talk the depth of our friendship is rekindled. The level of the friendship is so deep that I would be willing to sacrifice for them even though I haven’t been around them in years. The Bible talks about the great love of a friend to sacrifice. (John 15:13, Greater love has no one than someone lay down his life for his friends.) Just as the Bible gives us a commandment to love our enemies, to a greater degree we are supposed to love our friends even when they are not being so friendly. You know that you have grown in the love of Christ when your expression of love become sacrificial to the needs of others (friends).
In John 13:35 we see that Jesus says that your identification in me is based upon your demonstration of love towards one another. Not only will you be able to sustain the church and each other, in addition outsiders will began to take notice of your sacrificial love. To be obedient to God is not about obeying the function of any religious activity, but to demonstrate the love the activity portrays.
What I mean by this is participating in a church body has a deeper meaning and purpose that it appears to the natural eye. The gathering of the church represents a body of love that has decided at a specific time to sacrifice the cares of the world and come together in love to worship God. Every person next to you has made a sacrifice to come to church and yet if love is not the motivating factor it’s in vain. Love brings about an obligation that is not burdensome and has plenty of hope layered with faith.
In John 13:33-35 we have the measure and expansion of love demonstrated by Christ. In 1 Corinthians chapter 13 we have explicit measuring points to consider on our understanding of love. As you read Chapter 13 of first Corinthians and compare it to John chapter 13, how deep is your love? Read the verses in the Corinthian chapter about what, “love never does”. Try to come up with answers in the affirmative and tell yourself what love always accomplishes. It is my belief that the Bible teaches us the loving of the saints is important in propagating the gospel around the world. Rituals in legalism will never convert people to Christ, but truth and love will always prevail as well as relationships built on love and always compelled by truth.
(1Co 13:1) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
(1Co 13:2) And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
(1Co 13:3) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
(1Co 13:4) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
(1Co 13:5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
(1Co 13:6) it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
(1Co 13:7) Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1Co 13:8) Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
(1Co 13:9) For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
(1Co 13:10) but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
(1Co 13:11) When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
(1Co 13:12) For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
(1Co 13:13) So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.