Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant by that statement? It’s from John 13:34. “A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another [as I love you].”
Do you get it? Do you see how it’s different? Way back in the Old Testament we’re told to Love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. The new command is, “Love as I love you.” How Jesus loves us is not at all how we love our neighbours or even ourselves.
“Even pagans love those who love them.”
While we were still His enemies, Jesus died for us. Jesus’ act of love took place regardless of whether we respond to that love or reject that love. As those who “love as I have loved you,” our acts of love, and kindness, and self-sacrifice should never be done in order to change someone else. Christians far too often show kindness in order to “witness” or to draw someone to Jesus. If there are strings attached (expectations for someone to change) to our show of love, then it probably wasn’t a decision to love that prompted our behaviour.
We are living in the age of grace. God is good to everyone regardless of their response. Jesus, our example and character goal, came to earth knowing in advance that He would be abused, misunderstood, mistreated, rejected, insulted, betrayed and ultimately have humanity do our absolute worst to Him. Yet He entered into a covenant relationship with us anyway because He loves us. And then Jesus said, “Pick up your cross and follow Me (be like Me, do what I did, act like I did), in your relationship with others.”
So profound is this type of love, so supernatural is this type of love that the apostle John was able to say, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love one another.” It can’t be done without the indwelling of Jesus’ Spirit. Only the love of Christ in us allows us to be willing to lay down our lives for others, regardless of their response to that love.