“A new command I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have love you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This past Sunday, right before worship started, John Thomassian handed me a small slip of paper on which was written, among other things, these words:
Love is both the spark for starting and the glue for sticking to the task of serving.
I had every intention of sharing these words with those of you who were here Sunday morning or watching online, because they perfectly summarize what Jesus has said and done throughout John 13. But I forgot. So I share them with you now; and, more importantly, I share the truth they capture.
John 13 is now, more than ever, one of my favorite chapters in all of Scripture. It's always stood out to me. Jesus, the Son of God, washing feet! It's striking from that perspective alone. Add to that what we now understand about the "new commandment," and it emerges as a watershed chapter. The world would never be the same. The church would be born a few weeks after this night with both the what and the why of the church's ministry. In other words, Jesus not only showed us what a healthy church will be doing within itself, He also made it clear that this same effort will be our identifying marker to "all people."
First the "what." To answer this question, Jesus humbled Himself, took off His outer garments, and washed His disciple's feet. This, of course, was just the tip of the iceberg of what Jesus would do to demonstrate His love. But His washing of the disciple's feet was the spark.
Have you ever watched an ember that popped out from a campfire start another fire? It doesn't happen very often. Usually a spark just goes out. But every once in a while, it doesn't. Every once in awhile, the spark starts a fire. Slowly but surely, the ember continues to smolder. With the fuel of surrounding brush or wood, the smoke becomes more and more thick. Until, boom, ignition. It's an amazing thing to watch. Forest fires start this way. So do the fires of service to one another. The Love of God is like an ember, it's power going out from the heart of Jesus and igniting the fire of service in the lives of His disciples. The love of Jesus - the washing of the disciple's feet - was the ember smoldering in their souls. They now knew what they were supposed to do.
Now to the "why." This question has two answers. The first is obvious. Serving one another is how the body of Christ is nurtured, protected, and matured. It's pretty straight forward.
"each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."
"If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."
1 Corinthians 12:7,26
The second answer as to why we serve one another is not so obvious. This is why Jesus had to give His disciples a new commandment. When Jesus said, "a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another," it wasn't because God had never commanded His people to love each other. Jesus summarized the 10 commandments as love God...love your neighbor. That was given in Exodus 20. "Love one another" wasn't a new commandment in that sense. It was new in this sense: the love that Jesus commanded us to have for one another would be unprecedented (new), not in it's existence, but in it's prominence and it's purpose.
Never before was love for one another the primary identifying mark of God's people. For Israel, holiness was prominent. Holiness was the identifier. To use the symbol I used this past weekend, holiness was Israel's watermark. Love, not holiness, is the church's watermark. Not just love but specifically koinonia or "one another" love.
This doesn't mean that holiness isn't important. It just means that "one another love" will have a new purpose. Not only will it build up the church, it will be bring others to the church. You may think that last part is a bit of a jump. Maybe you're thinking, "Jesus didn't say that your love for one another would bring anyone anywhere." You're right. He only said that all people would know we are His disciples by our love for one another. But think it through. If the Father is drawing people to the Son (John 6:44); if the Holy Spirit is convicting the world of sin and righteousness and judgement (John 16:8); if any of the lost are going to be found, they have to know where to go.
In other words, Jesus has told us what the lost will be looking for. But once they see it, then they will come. They will come because they see the love we have for each other. They'll know in their hearts that Jesus is here. They may not be able to articulate it. They may not even be able to put their finger on exactly what has drawn them. But we should. We should know that It's the way we love one another. The service we give to one another. How we take care of our brothers and sisters in Christ. And if we love the lost like Jesus does, then that love for them will also be the glue for sticking to the task of serving.
For His Glory,