When a Jewish teacher of the law asked Jesus which of the Old Testament commandments was the most important, Jesus responded with what is commonly called the Great Commandment:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30–31).
Instead of telling this man to perform a certain religious duty, Jesus pointed him toward love. First of all, love God. Second, love others. Jesus was declaring to a culture obsessed with rules that a heart of love matters to God more than anything a person might do.
This was the foundation of the gospel embedded in the old covenant, which Jesus came to unveil in the new covenant. Thus, toward the end of His ministry, Jesus gave His disciples a new command about love. He told them that the standard for love was no longer how much they loved themselves (as it says in Mark 12) but how much He loves them. According to the old covenant, they were only obligated to love others as much as they loved themselves. Now, as they faced the beginning of the new covenant, Jesus told them they could actually love others as much as He loves them.
Three times during Jesus’ teaching in John 13–17, directly before His arrest and death, Jesus explained this new standard for love to His disciples. First, He said:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34–35).
Then, again, He repeated this new command, using it to foreshadow the ultimate act of love that He was about to commit on the cross:
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12–13).
Then, a third time, Jesus repeated the command to love, this time identifying it as the fruit His disciples are called to bear:
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other (John 15:16–17).
This is a profound revelation. And it is the foundation of the new covenant message, the new covenant law of love. We were made to be loved by God, and from that experience of His love to love others in the same way. I first heard this idea from Jonathan Welton, Understanding the Whole Bible (Rochester, NY: Welton Academy, 2014), pg. 329.
When I discovered the Father’s love for me, my life changed drastically. As I began to mature in this love relationship with my Father, His love became the catalyst within me, enabling me to love Him back and to love others with His love. The more I experience the Father’s love, the more I learn about how to receive and give healthy love. This is what it means to be transformed into His image (see Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18). This is the essence of our faith, the foundation for everything else we do.
This is an excerpt from my new book Loved Like Jesus.
I wrote it because I want you to experience the deep love that your heavenly Father has for you. Living from this reality as a much loved son or daughter, you can rest in a confident connection with Him and experience abundant living and lasting freedom.
Order my book today for yourself and an extra copy for a friend, your pastor and/or your small group.