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Saturday, April 14, 2012

A New Commandment

Let's imagine that you went to a highly touted lecture but when you got there it was only a detailed instruction on how to start your car. Starting your car is something that you do each day, maybe several times a day. You know you don't need instructions on how it is done. So, you have only a couple of choices: you can sit bored throughout the lecture or you can leave before the lecturer finishes.

Now, let's imagine that there are people who have never been in a car before. They have only heard of cars and look forward to driving one. They lean forward, take notes and ask questions. The lecture is not boring at all to them. The time passes quickly and they all stay to the end of the lecture.

One group takes the lecture for granted. The other sees it as vital. This may be the reason so many people are distracted as they drive too. They are taking things for granted without realizing that they need to pay attention.

Christians have the same problem with love. Many of them would be bored to death in a Bible study on loving their neighbors as themselves. Most of them have heard this since they were children. This isn't new news. Thus, they often are unaware when they are not practicing love.

I personally don't believe that people are trying to run over me as I ride my bicycle to work. I think they fail to see me because they aren't expecting a man on a bicycle. I don't believe that most people are hateful. I think they aren't expecting to love others so they ignore them and do thoughtless things to each other.

Therefore, normally loving people will park in front of your mailbox so that your mailman refuses to deliver your mail. They leave their shopping carts strewn all over the parking lot causing some to run into others' cars. They step in front of others at the grocery store line. They dominate a conversation so that no one else can speak. They say hurtful words about you that eventually comes back to you.

Jesus told His disciples that He was giving them a new commandment when He told them to love one another. Surely they thought He was joking. Loving one another wasn't a new commandment. Loving like Jesus loved was.

Jesus pays attention to love. He always acted in a loving manner; even when He rebuked the Pharisees. He wanted them to break out of their legal living and come to a relationship with Him. He had been around them for thirty years before He began His ministry. He knew exactly who they were.

We must pay attention if we are going to love like Jesus loved. It is a careful kind of love. It means asking yourself several times each day if your actions are loving. It is acting as if the commandment to love one another is new each day.

The people who had never seen a car would act very carefully as they got into one to drive it. They would do exactly what their instructor said. They would adjust the seat and the mirrors. They would carefully put the key into the ignition. They would put their foot on the brake before putting the car in gear. They would look carefully before they proceeded. They would be very safe.

We must take the same manner of precautions if we are to love like Jesus. We should see the people all around us. We should ask ourselves how we can practice love. Some will receive smiles, others handshakes and even others hugs. We look to see how any action might enhance our actions of love. We would be very careful.

So, Jesus did give a new commandment to His disciples. Our job is to keep it a new commandment.

John 13:34 (NIV)
 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 


high-expressions said...

Is it a new commandment or is it NOT? Is loving one another a new command? If you read John 13:34, English translations commonly reflect that, i.e. it would read “A new command(ment) I give you”. Is loving one another and loving your neighbor as yourself referring to the same thing? We know that the twin pillars of love is referring to loving God with our all, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

I believe they are referring to the same thing. Why do I say that? It is because in the same Gospel Book, 2 chapters, later, the Apostle John elaborated as follows:

John 15:12 – 12 My {Jesus speaking} command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
John 15:13 – 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

From here, we can conclude that when Jesus was referring to us, to love one another; He was talking about loving another as much as loving ourselves. In other words, it is NOT quite right to say that John 13:34 was merely calling us to love one another. It is saying that we are to love one another as ourselves. By stating John 15:13 immediately after the command, is to drive home the point that the love expected in the “we are to love one another”, is a love as great if NOT, greater than losing one’s life. Is NOT loving your own life, being put as the strongest love we could have, humanly speaking, when unaffected (or before being affected) by the love of God?

In John 13:34, it was said there as “A new command”, but NOT so, in John 15:12. Is the command new or NOT? Is it important if it is new or NOT? I originally thought it was NOT that important, but apparently there is a segment of the Christian community which chooses to emphasize this being a new command so much, that they argue that all other commandments have been superseded by this one. Their argument is that so long that we love one another, we are the disciples of Jesus or the followers of Jesus; and all other commandments and laws are irrelevant.

It is without doubt that under this head of love, almost all of laws/many other commandments hang. But you have to be very clear even then, that it is referring to NOT just “casual” loving one another, but the loving another as much as loving yourself, that you would even die for your neighbor!

If you read it carefully, both John 13:34 and John 15:12, both made reference to the love being Jesus’ kinda of love. Now, “loving your neighbor as yourself” is NOT new! It is already stated in the Old Testament. It is in Lev 19:18. In fact, the call to love God with our all, is also NOT new, it is in Deu 6:5. The issue is we have to understand “new” is an English translation of the original word used in Scripture which is NOT in English. Now, if we try to “enrich” the English word, “new”, to be like that of the original Greek word, then “new” can mean firstly, and commonly as new with reference to time, meaning it never exist, and now it exists, or simply, never used before or never given before, now given.

Now, it can also mean “recently made fresh” or refresh or anew or made anew; this carries the connotation of something NOT entirely new, but previously exist, but has kinda of gone “stale”, but now refreshed or made anew. Now, from my reading of Ps Prentis words, if I am NOT mistaken, he is reading the word “new” of John 13:34 that way. This way of looking at it, has some, NOT all, of the same connotation as in Jesus’ saying in the Book of Revelation that we are NOT to forget our first love. As opposed to the first meaning of the new, as given here by me, in the preceding paragraph, this second way is a more appropriate handling, but it is NOT the best way to view it.

Cont. on next page...

high-expressions said...

COnt. from preceding page

The third way, which is the best view, I believe, is to say that for the “new” here, in John 13:34, it carries the connotation of being now made superior or better in quality. It is along the same line as the New Covenant; if you study the narrative about the New Covenant, does it NOT say that, that it is a better covenant, or some say, a better word; it is NOT that it is an entirely new thing, but it is loaded with greater superiority or quality. I am not making this up, if you look at Strong’s Concordance on the Greek word, kainos (G2537), in the expanded version, you find such understanding there.

What is the “new” of the commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself” as now “punched up” by Jesus? In other words, what is the better thing that has entered the command? Yes, it is the “love as I have loved”. The “I” in there is Jesus. In other words, the loving of one another is to done with the Jesus’ kinda of love or the love of Jesus or the love of God. In the Old Testament, when it was commanded of the people to love their neighbors as themselves, the love there, capable of being manifest, was the love of men, the fallen “adultered” love. The powered-up for the command is that now we are capable and we are to love with Jesus’ kinda of love, and Jesus’ kinda of love is God’s kinda of love.

As believers, we are to allow our selfish love to be replaced with the love of God, and we are to love with the love of God, one another, that is what is “new” of the command.

We come back to the issue of whether it is ok for us to reduce our faith to just this one command, “love one another”, even with the expanded explanation of it actually now demands that we are to love one another with Jesus’ or God’s kind of love.

What is Jesus’ kinda of love? One portrayal given, and it is powerful one, is that of willingness to die for another; that was explained to us in John 15:13, immediately after the commandment, “to love one another, as I (Jesus) have loved you”. God the Father, Himself demonstrated that, as said in John 3:16, that He so loved us, men, that He gave His Son to die for us (now, God the Father cannot die Himself, that is for sure, if He “dies”, everything ends, and that is NOT love; but the Son is a part of the Triune God, and in that sense, God was participating in the death, for us). I need to say that “being willing to die for another, is NOT the only important aspect of God’s love. One other, I must mentioned, but which I will NOT elaborate here, is that the love of God is love unto righteousness. I will NOT elaborate (to avoid making this comment even longer), but without loving with the love of God (which is love unto righteousness), one may be loving another as himself, but it passes NOT the commandment as laid down by Jesus in John 13:34 or John 15:12 (although, previously it could be deemed to have satisfied Lev 19:18).

This command still cannot be all, for it only addresses the man-to-man dimension of things, so to speak. It is on this, that other man-to-man related commandments, like don’t steal or don’t covet your neighbor’s wife, hang. It is NOT that all these other commandments are irrelevant, it is that they still serve to explain and “enlighten” what is not loving; and we need to be reminded of them all, either by another man or by the Holy Spirit, because we are NOT yet perfect in our love (our selfish love has NOT be fully replaced by the love of God). In other words, we are trying to be Christ-like, and we are working on it; it is NOT that we are arrived.

Because it is focused on the man-to-man dimension of things, even if you are highly proficient in practising this love (loving one another), still there is the dimension of man-to-God related commandments, chiefly, you shall love your God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul. And so, it is NOT this commandment of loving one another, covers all.

COnt. on next page...

high-expressions said...

COnt. from preceding page

It is loving our God covers it all. It is out of loving God we love one another, and the converse is NOT true. In other words, the “motivation” to love one another comes from our loving God; and the motivation must come from that, in order to be of meaning in the eyes of God. In other words, it is untenable to have to the situation to be acceptable to God, where we claim we love one another but we do NOT love God with all our heart. Loving God demands that we love one another. In other words, in terms of heart condition, if you loved NOT God, whatever love that you purportedly said that you are loving another with, or practising, it is NOT the God’s kinda of love. So, the Christian faith cannot be simply be spoken and taught as solely, “we just love one another”. Minimally, it has to be said as, “we love God with all our heart, and in our love for God, we love one another, with God’s love”. That is also why, it is NOT contradiction of Scripture to say, to love God with our all (heart, mind, strength and soul) and at the same time, calling us to love another; there is no division of our love, it is all loving God - God loves us to love one another, and we do what He loves, and that is, loving Him.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions