“Love Each Other!”
This was Jesus’ commandment to His disciples after He had washed their feet and on the night He gave Himself up for us all. Jesus said to them: “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are My disciples, when you love each other” (John 13:34-35).
The real question is what did Jesus mean when He said love each other? Was He talking about warm fuzzy feelings or something more tangible? To answer this, we must first look at the circumstances in which Jesus gives this command. The beginning verses of chapter 13 of John’s Gospel informs us that Jesus knew He had already been betrayed and that His time was at an end. We are told that “Jesus knew the Father had given everything into His hands and that He had come from God and was returning to God” (John 13:3). And so, at this final meal with His disciples He decides to show them that He “loved them fully” (John 13:1). Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, Lord of Lords, and King of Kings, kneels before His disciples and washes their feet. The washing of feet was usually relegated to the lowest servant in the house because it was a disgusting job. The streets of Palestine were not paved with stone but animal droppings and dust.
Peter first refuses to allow Jesus to wash his feet, but submits when Jesus tells him: “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with Me” (John 13:8). What Jesus was saying is that we must first submit to God before we can serve Him. Unless we are willing to receive the Lord’s grace and follow His instruction, we will not be effective instruments of His grace to others.
After Jesus has washed their feet, He confirms that He is what they believe Him to be, their “Teacher and Lord.” And so His instructions carry authority when He says, “If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: just as I have done, you also must do” (John 13:14-15).
Jesus again confirms that they must submit to His instruction rather than doing things their own way, saying, “I assure you, servants aren’t greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them” (John 13:16). Christians have often made the mistake of thinking they know what they are to do, while failing to ask for His direction. Only God knows how we may best serve, and therefore, we must submit to His way and be led by His Spirit.
The bottom line is that Jesus is teaching us that loving one another is not about good feelings, or limited to words and prayers. Loving one another is lived out through service, by acting on what the Lord has commanded, doing what He has instructed, and following the example He has provided. The Apostle James certainly understood this, saying, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). James also said, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). Serving is critical to our faith, and Jesus teaches us that serving others is the same as serving Him. Remember that Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me” (Matthew 25:40).
The Lord has commanded us to love one another, which means serve one another. There are many people in our community with acute needs, suffering from a lack of the necessities of life such as food, clothing, and shelter. There are many in our community also suffering from a lack of knowledge regarding the teachings, hope and healing that can only come through Christ in their lives. Many of our own children and youth are also lacking the spiritual teaching they need due to a lack of teachers and youth leaders. We must shift our priorities, doing more to serve others. I will be doing all I can to encourage and empower you to step up and serve. Christ is counting on us all to do our part to serve the needs of our community. Please help!
Your fellow servant in Christ,