When Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples by…,” he could have ended that sentence in lots of ways. He finished it perfectly of course. He did not point to religious activity or theological aptitude or political zeal. No, rather he pointed to the one thing that touches the heart of every person on the planet and touches the heart of God: love.
Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.” We love one another in his name.
Know the magnitude of Jesus’ love (see John 13:1-3, 21-30, 36-38). The love that Jesus has for us is big, really big, enormous, huge! The magnitude of his love is beyond our comprehension. He willingly left heaven, lived on earth, suffered excruciating agony, and died on the cross for our sin. He experienced separation from the Heavenly Father. He suffered and died for us. Nothing could keep him from the cross. That’s how much he loves us.
Judas’ betrayal set things in motion, but it was Jesus’ love that drove him to the cross. He did everything that he could to reconcile us to himself, to bring us into his love. Even Peter’s denial did not stop Jesus from loving him.
Jesus glorified God by the way he loved. When he was teaching, he glorified God. When he was healing, he glorified God. When he performed miracles over nature such as walking on the water, he glorified God. Jesus glorified God in everything that he did. Of all that he did on earth, nothing glorified God more than his sacrifice for our sin on the cross.
31 When he [Judas] had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.”
Jesus calls us to love people like he did. To love one another is not a new command, but to love one another as Jesus loved us is strikingly new. We are to love one another steadfastly, with all purity, sacrificially, joyfully, unconditionally. We are to serve one another, encourage one another, bring healing to one another, teach one another, show hospitality to one another, pray for one another, show compassion to one another, sacrifice for one another, and love one another in so many other ways.
34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.”
All people will know that we are his disciples when we love one another. You want others to know that you are a Christ-follower? Love people the way Jesus did. Love speaks volumes. Love points people to Jesus. We love because he first loved us.
In the first and second centuries, the Romans were notorious for all sorts of atrocities. One of them was the way in which they killed unwanted newborn babies by placing the infants out in the elements, leaving them to die of exposure or to be killed by wild animals. When the Christians would hear about this, they would risk themselves to save the babies. They would adopt these young children into their families and show them Jesus’ love.
Another example from the first and second centuries is this. When Christians would become ill, their friends and families would be there to comfort them and care for them. Not so for the typical family in the Roman empire. The typical family would get as far away as possible, so as to not contract the illness. The love the Christians had for one another spoke volumes to those around, showing what a follower of Jesus does.
34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
You want people to know that you are a follower of Jesus? Love them like Jesus loved.