“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:33-35).
In this passage of Scripture, Jesus was addressing His disciples not long before He went to the cross. It was an incredible scene! The One who was the embodiment of God’s extravagant love for all mankind was commanding His disciples to follow Him into the depth of this love for others—particularly toward those who belonged to the household of faith. Of course, this was not a commandment solely for those present with Him at the time; the Lord is issuing this command to you and me today.
Note that the kind of love Jesus is referring to does not simply mean having affection or an affinity for one another. No, the Lord is calling His Church to be an expression of a love so deep and so far beyond our natural human ability that it will stand as an undeniable testimony of the reality of God. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things . . . endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NKJV).
Upon receiving this new commandment, the apostle Peter assumed he had the inherent ability to do what Jesus was calling them to do. He asked Jesus, “Lord, where are You going? Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward’” (John 13:36, NKJV).
In other words, Jesus was saying, “Peter, you do not have the strength now to go where I am going. You cannot love the way that I love.” We, too, must recognize this weakness in ourselves. I cannot love people the way Jesus commands me to, and neither can you. Only God has this kind of benevolent love that we need. It is only when the Holy Spirit comes upon us—when the victory of Christ becomes our victory and God’s heart becomes our heart—that we can fulfill this new commandment.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. A strong, compassionate leader, he is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world.