Here’s a question: how many commands are there in the Great Commandment? a) One; b) Two; c) Three. If you answered two, you remembered the ones to love God and neighbor. These were given through Moses in the old covenant and endorsed by Jesus (Matt 22:37-39). But what about the new command of Jesus? “What’s that?“ you ask. Precisely! It’s been forgotten and the consequences have been grave. .
At the last supper, Jesus said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 So we wouldn’t miss it he repeats “love one another” three times then twice more in John 15:12 and 17. But we missed it anyway.
What’s a maundy? How we lost this vital word of Jesus is a mystery to me. For centuries Catholic and mainline Protestant churches have celebrated Maundy Thursday. Hasn’t any one ever asked, “What’s a maundy?” Turns out, it comes from the Latin maundus, from which we get our English word mandate. A mandate dear friends, is a command, an order. Jesus gave this mandate as the hallmark of the New Covenant. Yet we have ignored it, forgotten it and just plain lost it.
“Oh,” you say, “No we haven’t. It’s covered by that one about loving our neighbor.” Before addressing that, let me tell you a story.
Is My Brother My Neighbor? A few years back at a men’s breakfast, when it time came to pay, I found the restaurant only took cash. It was embarrassing. I only had credit cards, but the guy next to me reached over, took my check. “It’s OK, I’ve got it.” What a relief! Someone said, “Now that’s a good neighbor.” “No,” I replied, “That’s a good brother.”
What’s the difference? Would it make sense for me to love my neighbor’s family the way I love my own? If I did, our family would not only be out of divine order, but I would have big headache on the home front. We owe the members of our new covenant family a greater love than what we owe our neighbor. Here are four reasons His new command is different from the one about the neighbor.
- Whom are we to love? Jesus explains in His Good Samaritan story that our neighbor is the stranger we meet along the way. His new command is to the church, the family of God.
- How we are to love? Moses’ command tells us to treat neighbors as we wish to be treated. Christ tells us to love our fellow members as he did, that is, sacrificially.
- New vs. old. Jesus’ command was no rehashing of the old command to love our neighbor. Rather, it’s new—a new command for a new covenant—His new order for a new order.
- It carries a promise. Unlike Moses’ command, Jesus promised, “Obey me in this and you will have great results in your witness to the world.” Luke put a word to this: koinonia. We believe this promise applies to genuine koinonia within a local congregation or among congregations. When mutual love is practiced, things will happen.
A world right-side up. In fact, mutual love is the evidence; the only evidence, Jesus ever gave his church that authenticates our mission. The first church obeyed this command. Again and again Luke reports how they were “in one accord” and “of one mind and heart.” The results?–they turned their world right-side up for Christ.
How can we preach a gospel of love if we don’t model that love among ourselves? “Look at us,” we could tell the world. “This is how God intended people to treat each other.” This proves God’s kingdom has come and His will is being done on earth as in heaven.
Lord, hear our prayer. Forgive us for neglecting your command. We depend on Your Spirit to fill us with the power and wisdom to recover what we have lost, to really show our love for you by the love we have for each other.
Please join the conversation. Did you answer one, two or three? Are there other places in scripture where Jesus said, do this and the world will believe? I haven’t found them.
What are some practical ways we can begin to do this in our own Christian families?