A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
In the Equip Hour on Sunday we were discussing this verse, and pondering this question: How can love be commanded? I can’t change myself to love something if I don’t really love it. It just is the way it is. Right?
I think we are helped by Augustine’s prayer: “Grant what Thou dost command, and command what Thou wilt.”
Jesus not only commands us to love one another, but He grants it in those whom He has chosen. He gives them His Spirit to work out this love. Notice that the first fruit of the Spirit is indeed this love. Christ has not given a new commandment and left us to ourselves to obey it. He gives to us what we need to live according to His commands.
You may ask, “What if I don’t feel loving toward someone?” or “Suppose I showed love to someone out of duty, without any heart or feeling behind it?” When you don’t feel like you want to love, you must choose do to so anyway, in spite of feelings. A few reasons:
- Your feelings about your love for God and others doesn’t dictate anything about whether or not you are to obey.
- Love (when Biblically defined) is not a feeling or emotion.
- When you choose to love, going contrary to your feelings, this is full evidence of Christ granting what he has commanded you. Now you see first-hand that the Holy Spirit is working in and through you.
- Pushing past wrong feelings and emotions, showing love to others in spite of our fleshly sinful tendencies, may have the effect of changing our feelings and emotions to be in alignment with the reality that Christ has called us to.
Consider now that Christ says, “Just as I have loved you.” How can our love be just as that of our Lord Jesus? Now understand this: He has given His Spirit to us. If we have His very Spirit within us, and if the love we show is not our own love, but the fruit of the Spirit in us, then we truly do love each other just as He loves us.