John 13:34-35 (NKJV) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
God loves us with Agape love, which is unconditional, and Jesus expects us to use the same kind of love towards everyone regardless of whether they love us or not. We are to love our neighbours and enemies, Christians and non-Christians alike, with this love through the new creation, and with His nature in us.
Unbelievers expect Christians to be selfless because they know of the teaching, and there is a higher expectation amongst Christians to love unconditionally, especially towards those who are deemed more spiritually mature. As such, there is also a higher tendency to be disappointed when love is not seen or experienced in church or in workplaces where there are Christians. Because we are still imperfect, all of us need to deal with the rebelliousness of the flesh and the tendency to slip into Phileo love.
Leviticus 19:17-19 (NKJV) ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.
Why did Jesus say it is a new commandment? Under the Old Covenant, the Israelites were commanded to love their neighbour as themselves. However, the root of sin is self-centredness and to the desire to live life apart from God. Therefore, asking people to love their neighbour as themselves is contrary to what their flesh and sin nature want. The first reaction from the sin nature after being hurt, offended, or sinned against is to take vengeance and bear grudges. It is not part of the natural man to want to walk in love and forgiveness because the natural reaction is to harden our hearts to protect us from being hurt again.
Therefore, God prophesied in the Book of Ezekiel that He would do something new so that we can do what He requires of us.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NKJV) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgements and do them.
This prophecy is referring to the born-again experience where we become a new creation in the heart or spirit being. This kind of love can only be lived through the empowerment and enablement of the Holy Spirit in our hearts because we will tend to operate in Phileo love, and not Agape love if given a choice, which is why Jesus gave us this commandment.
Sermon Series: How to love? (Part 1)
Image Source: pixabay.com