“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34 NIV)
Jesus gave his disciples a new command; that they love each other in the same fashion that Jesus had loved them. This was not a suggestion, nor was it optional; it was a command. Nor should it be considered something unique to them. Love one another!
How did Jesus love his disciples? The first thing we will likely think of is that he died on the cross for them, and that is indeed the greatest example of his love. But notice here that Jesus wants them to love as he has loved them, not as he will love them. For the past three or so years Jesus has been loving his disciples, setting them an example of love. And now he is telling them to follow his example. Just prior to this Jesus had taken the role of a servant and washed his disciple’s feet, instructing them to follow suit. We struggle today with understanding how to follow this example, but I believe that as we serve each other, we follow both commands: to wash each other’s feet, and to love one another.
How can we love one another? I do not believe Jesus is calling on us to have warm cuddly feelings for each other. Rather he is calling on us to choose to do what is best for each other. His call to love is an act of the will rather than the emotions, although the emotions will likely follow. We love each other when we work to build up the body (Eph 4:16), encourage each other in Christian living (Heb 10:24), and serve others (John 13:12-17). Choose to obey Christ and love one another!