“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this they will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
Jesus calls us to a life that values others, serves others, and loves others. Not only does he call us to live this way, he modeled it for us.
Yet many Christians fail to actually live this way and look no different from the world around them. And I think the meaning of John 13:34-35 is a powerful reminder and challenge to follow the example of Christ.
In this blog post we are going to dive into the meaning of “love one another as I have loved you” and how we can practically apply this to our life.
Let’s start by looking at what lead Jesus to say these words.
The Context Of John 13:34-35
In John 13 Jesus is getting increasingly closer to the cross; his time is coming and things are intensifying.
In the verses prior Jesus is sharing a meal with his disciples. He’s once again predicting his death and Judas’ betrayal. In John 13:30 Judas leaves to go betray Jesus.
Now Jesus shifts gears; he begins to explain to the remaining disciples what he expects during his absence.
The disciples don’t really understand the gravity of the moment. But in the coming days they will begin to understand exactly what Jesus came to do and how everything is about to change. And the meaning of John 13:34-35 will take on a whole new life for them.
These words that Jesus say should carry with them some weight. We should lean in on what he’s about to say because it’s important that we understand AND live out this command.
The Meaning Of John 13:34-35
This passage should be one that every Christian has memorized and strives to live out daily. These are central to what God is calling each of us to do.
To help us better understand the John 13:34-35 meaning we are going to break down these two verses to see what they can teach us today.
“A New Command I Give You” Meaning
Now, this command that Jesus is giving isn’t completely new. The Old Testament law carries a similar heart as to what we are going to see Jesus say next.
What’s new is that Jesus is about to up the requirement. But he’s also going to lead by example.
It’s also new in the sense that it’s part of the New Covenant that Jesus will ratify with his blood on the cross. In the Old Covenant righteousness was gained by right living; now it’s gained by Jesus’ work for us.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t purpose righteous living. We should. But not to earn salvation or God’s favor. Rather in response to what God has done for us.
Jesus is introducing a new way of living and entering into what God has for us.
“Love One Another As I Have Loved You” Meaning
So, what is this new command? It’s love. Something John talks a lot about in his Gospel, especially at the end. The Greek words for “love” appear only 12 times in John 1-12, but in chapters 13-21 we find them 44 times (source).
But this isn’t any kind of love; Jesus tells us we are to love as he loved. Remember he’s about to go to the cross, the greatest act of love. And it’s to this extent that we are to love those around us.
Jesus displayed his love for us by going to the cross. Therefore we are to love those around us with the same sacrificial love.
“By This They Will Know You Are My Disciples” Meaning
Today Christians are known for a lot of things. But our love is not normally at the top of the list. But the meaning of John 13:34-35 challenges this. It’s our sacrificial love that should be the distinguishing thing for followers of Jesus.
We follow a God that gave up his life, not because we deserved it, but because we needed it. But today many of his followers would rather give people what they deserve. We’ve got some work to do.
If you are a follower of Jesus then people should be able to look at how you love and know who you follow.
We love because we were first loved.
“If You Love One Another” Meaning
Really this command is simple. It’s really easy to understand. But man is it hard to live out. Loving people is hard. They are difficult and messy. But let’s not forget… we are too. And despite our own brokenness Jesus still loved us and went to the cross for us.
When we love people, particularly difficult and messy people, we are showing those around us that the love of Christ is in us. It’s how we set ourselves apart from the world.
If you love one another the world will know that you follow Jesus.
How To Apply The John 13:34-35 Meaning To Your Life
I want to end by looking at 3 practical ways you can love one another as Jesus loved you. Below certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is a way that the world will start knowing you by your love.
1. Live In God’s Grace
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he gave two: love God and love others.
There’s a reason Jesus listed love God first. You cannot give away what you don’t have. If we want to love those around us then we need to first understand the love that God has for us.
Our love for God is shown by how we love those around us. And if you want to live out the John 13:34-35 meaning then you need to live in God’s grace. You need to understand what God has done for you so that you can do the same for others.
2. Put Down Your Rights
One of the top things that the church is known for in our country is fighting for our rights. It’s become our battle cry. But we follow a God who didn’t fight for his rights, but laid down his life.
Now I’m not saying that there’s no place to stand up for what we believe is right. But our chief concern shouldn’t be preserving our rights.
When Jesus said, “they will know us by our love” and “love one another as I have loved you,” he meant it. This should be what we are known for.
And yes, we could lose some rights in our country if we shifted focus. But I think we would see a revitalization of people coming to know Jesus if Christians stopped fighting for their rights and started loving their neighbor.
3. Serve Those Around Us
Maybe the primary way to live out the meaning of John 13:34-35 is to serve. If we want our love to be visible then we have to serve people. We have to place others over ourselves.
If Christians stay centered on themselves and their own needs they will leave Jesus behind. They will miss out on the incredible life that God has and will fail to make any meaningful impact. The heart of the Gospel centers around service.
If you want to live out this verse seek ways you can serve the people around you. It doesn’t have to be something huge; often small gestures make big impacts. In a world that is increasingly self-centered a selfless people will stand out.