We all know that as Christians we’re supposed to love one another. I want to reexamine that idea though and get down to what Jesus really meant.

Previously He ranked “Love your neighbor as yourself” as the second greatest commandment (Matt. 22:39) and in the Good Samaritan parable He explained to us how our neighbor can be anyone and everyone (Luke 10:25-37). It’s a call to take the inward care and concern we have for ourselves and apply it to others. Stop and think about it for a minute and you’ll realize how difficult it is to apply this day in and day out.

However, as Christians we’re called to an even higher standard. Jesus didn’t just tell His followers to love one another. He didn’t even say “love each other as yourselves.” No, He took it to a whole new level. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34, repeated in 15:12).

As I have loved you.

I’m not sure we’ve really processed how difficult an assignment He gave us with this commandment. This commandment came right on the heels of Jesus washing their feet and directly before He was to head to the cross.

Again, he’s not just calling us to love each other as ourselves. Instead, He’s calling us to love each other better than ourselves, to deny ourselves in favor of caring for and serving our fellow Christians. He’s calling us to lay down our lives for each other (15:13).

Most Christians are familiar with John 13:35. In fact, we often sing about it – “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” That verse only makes sense when paired with the commandment in the prior verse. We aren’t going to stand out if we love each other the way the world loves. We’re going to stand out if we love as He loved.

Peter helps us understand this point in 1 Peter 1:22: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” Once our obedient purification leads to a sincere love of the brethren, we’re commanded to excel into a fervent love for each other. In this verse we see the two common words for love in the Greek, phileo and agape. Peter’s saying, “you have phileo, that brotherly love for each other. Now convert that into agape, a self-sacrificing love.”

If you’ll remember, this very distinction between the two loves carried a deep meaning for Peter. In John 21:15-17 he had that famous exchange with Jesus where Jesus asked if Peter agape loved Him and Peter would only say he phileo loved the Savior. When Peter called his readers to grow from brotherly, phileo love for each other into agape love, he of all people knew exactly what he was saying. We need brotherly love for each other, but we can’t stop there. It has to grow into something more, something weightier.

The challenge for each of us is to examine our relationship with our church family. Lest you feel defensive, the point is not to call into question whether we love our church family. Instead, the intent is to help us consider how we can love one another as He loved.

How much of our time are we giving to them? How are we helping them grow? What are we sacrificing to build them up and consider them better than ourselves? In what ways are we prioritizing the “one another” commands God gave us? How can we love more? In short, what are we doing to love one another as Jesus loved us?

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