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Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Terms Of The New Covenant Part 1 - Love One Another

We are now going to begin considering the actual terms of the New Covenant as John recorded them in his gospel.

We have seen that in Jn 13:30 Judas left to betray Jesus to the authorities. The following few words are Jesus' introductory remarks and the terms of the New Covenant begin at Jn 13:34 with the following words:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Notice how the very first words of the Covenant, the first obligation laid upon us, is to love our brothers and sisters in the faith. I find it fascinating that John and Peter, who were both present, emphasised this love for one another in their epistles and used the presence of such love as evidence of whether or not we are true disciples of Jesus.

Peter's Perspective

Peter, for example says:

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Pet 1:22)

This is not a soppy, mushy kind of love because as he goes on to say later in chapter 4 verse 8:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Loving our brothers like this is worked out practically in forgiveness. Remember the earlier words of Jesus when Peter asked him about this as recorded in Matthew 18:21-22:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Loving one another means complete forgiveness. But it also means protecting the sinner. When we cover the sins of another, we do not broadcast them to the world but rather seek to protect them, to nurture them and to bring them back to wholeness. The aim should always be to restore the sinner.

John's Judgement

John's epistles frequently bring out the concept that our love for one another is evidence of our love for God or, conversely, that we cannot claim to love God if we do not love our brother.

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (1 Jn 4:20)

Like Peter, John also gives a practical example of the outworking of this love but rather than focusing on forgiveness of the sinner he looks to the need of the brother:

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (1 Jn 3:17)

Love in this case is worked out by making sure our fellow believers are not going hungry or are in any other kind of need. Paul made such a radical statement about this in 2 Corinthians 8:13 that I have never heard it preached on:

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.

Equality? I have seen a lot of love and care within the church but never a drive towards equality amongst its members. Why is that?

God's Glory

I want to make one final observation about this command of Jesus. Notice what He doesn't say. He doesn't say, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love others," but "if you love one another."
We get caught in the trap of thinking that the world will recognise we are Christians if we show love to those outside our own community of believers. But that isn't the case. What evidences that we are Christians, and so brings glory to God, is the care we show towards His own people. Again Paul has something to say about this:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Gal 6:9-10 emph. added)

God is glorified when we place the emphasis on showing love to our brothers and sisters in practical ways.

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