16 A New Commandment I Give You
Call to Worship: John 13:34
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
To begin with, although there are several more transparent versions of this text, this one here is slightly complicated by punctuation. The text is a single sentence, divided by a semicolon. The thing is, we usually read,
"A new commandment I give unto you,
That ye love one another as I have loved you."
and yet, the semicolon comes between "
love one another" and "as I have loved you". In obedience to the punctuation, therefore, this passage must be read:
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; (PAUSE)
as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By altering the word order, Jesus has placed the emphasis of the commandment on Himself. This subtle change in value is the primary subject of this sermon; we will be discussing love between one another that is: AS Jesus loved us. But first some background:
"The New Commandment of Jesus to "love one another" is part of the final instructions given to his disciples after the Last Supper had "ended", and after Judas Iscariot had departed in John 13:30.
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. —John 13:33-35
This commandment appears thirteen times in twelve verses in the New Testament. Theologically, this commandment is interpreted as dual to the Love of Christ for his followers. The commandment can also be seen as the last wish in the Farewell Discourse to the disciples.
Gospel of John
The statement of the new commandment by Jesus in John 13:34-35 was after the Last Supper, and after the departure of Judas. The commandment was prefaced in John 13:33 by Jesus telling his remaining disciples, as little children, that he will be with them for only a short time, then will leave them.
In the commandment Jesus told the disciples: "Love one another; as I have loved you".
[Sidebar: This is the corruption of meaning caused by ignoring the punctuation, as we discussed earlier, but let it go.]
Just after the commandment, and before the Farewell Discourse the first reference to Peter's Denials took place, where Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the cock crow.
Two similar statements also appear in chapter 15 of the Gospel of John:
• John 15:12: This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you.
• John 15:17: These things I command you, that ye may love one another."
• The "New Commandment", the Wycliffe Bible Commentary states, "was new in that the love was to be exercised toward others not because they belonged to the same nation, but because they belonged to Christ...and the love of Christ which the disciples had seen...would be a testimony to the world".
• One of the novelties introduced by this commandment – perhaps justifying its designation as New – is that Jesus "introduces himself as a standard for love". The usual criterion had been "as you love yourself". However, the New Commandment goes beyond "as you love yourself" as found in the ethic of reciprocity and states "as I have loved you", using the Love of Christ for his disciples as the new model.
• The First Epistle of John reflects the theme of love being an imitation of Christ, with 1 John 4:19 stating: "We love, because he first loved us."
We, at the basin Bible church, have all, in one way or another, preached the gospel of unity consciousness. We have all affirmed, in this or that language, that we are all one, that we are one with God, that we are one with Jesus, and that we are one with each other. We are defined and unified in God's Love.
The best definition of love I know is: "connection"; as lovers of each other, we are connected, we share space consciousness (affinity).
Therefore, Jesus' command to love one another, is merely a reiteration, in a different form, of the fact that we are all one; that is to say: by affirming our love for each other, we are affirming our connectedness to each other, and thence our connectedness to Him.
From whence comes the "newness" of this message? What is so new about this commandment? To answer this question we have to point back at the barbaric past of Man, in which, in his animal-like self- absorption, (his newly forming, child-like, ego) he denied the connectedness of all men, defied the gods in prideful separation; very soon after his installment into Paradise, he became separated from his spiritual self because of the fruit of the tree of literal consciousness; in the aftermath of Original Sin, he continues to languish. Man's fall from grace in the garden, was effected by an invasion of Adam's soul by literal consciousness; the tree of knowledge opened his eyes to literal realities, but blinded him to the subtle corporate connections which are inherent in our spiritual constitution. Adam's nemesis is passed down to us every day by the world of literal consciousness; it is a world in which is lost the connection to higher dimensions; in it we spin idly in the feedback loop of material consciousness, never growing never seeing and becoming the light.
Thus, at this time, the idea of putting another's needs ahead of your own, was fairly new in itself, but there is more: to love each other AS GOD LOVES YOU-!-that was a very tall order in these primitive days; (an unprecedented stretch of the mind!); it was a miracle of linguistic ingenuity that He could even put it into words at all! So the newness of the commandment is not necessarily in its quality, but in its magnitude.
From: Pulpit Commentary
Verses 34, 35. -
(2) The demand which this glorification would make on the mutual fidelity and affection of the disciples. Verse 34. - A new commandment I give unto you (with the purpose and scope) that ye love one another; even as (or, seeing that) I loved you, that ye (also) love one another. The interpretation of this verse largely depends on the meaning given to the καθὼς, if, as many translate it, "even as I loved you;" or, "after the manner and type of my love to you;" then an amply sufficient explanation arises of the novelty of the ἐντολή.
So new a type of love is given that, as the Greek expositors generally have urged, there is a deeper intensity in the love than can be found in the Mosaic principle, Love thy neighbor as thyself." In this commandment, which embraces the whole law, self-love is assumed, and is made the standard for the love of neighbor. This ἐντολή, on the other hand, would be based on a new principle, and measured by a higher standard, and even mean more than love of self altogether. Christ's love to his disciples was self-abandoning, self-sacrificing love. This view of the passage is urged by Lucke, and really removes all necessity for the varied translations of the καινή, such as "illustrious" (Hammond); "last" (Heumann); "one that is always new" (Olshausen); "renewed commandment," a "renewing commandment" (Augustine and Maldonatus); "the institution of the Eucharist" (Lange).
But it is doubtful whether the ideal image of a perfect love constitutes the novelty, and whether the double ἵνα and the transposition of the second ἵνα be found in the simple style of John. If, however, καθώς ἠγάπησα be taken as "seeing that," or "since I loved you" (see John 17:2), Christ's love becomes not so much the manner or type, as the motive, ground, and principle of love to one another. As if he had said, "I have loved each of you unto death; in loving one another you are loving me, you are loving an object of my tender love.
The desire of mere imitation, however strong, is not equal to the demand I make, while the bestowment of the 'new' principle of life arising from a response to my love is." For the first interpretation speaks John's own use of the idea (1 John 3:16). There is a third interpretation, which makes καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς a sentence parallel with the δίδωμι. "Even as up to this moment, and up to my death, and to the uttermost, I have loved you, I give," etc., "in order that ye may love one another, and, inspired by me, may imitate my love one towards another" (Westcott). This is an endeavor to combine both interpretations. Alford suggests that the "newness" of the commandment consists in its "unicity," its being the prime injunction of the new covenant, and the first-fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22; 1 Corinthians 13.). Tholuck sees the expression of self-renouncing love - the love of the highest to the sinful, the love which is more blessed to give than to receive, the all-embracing love."
Thus, the commandment "to love one another as I have loved you" goes one step beyond the original commandment to love one another as you love yourself; by asking Christians to love one another as He has loved us, Jesus is raising the bar quite a bit; He has, once again, pointed out to us our own divinity, our own higher self, our personal identity with the Messiah, in whom resides our higher self, and in which all our higher potentials for love and connectedness are stored, waiting for us to enliven them.
It is interesting to consider: the historical Jesus revolutionized the idea of love in three dramatic stages. Indeed, in the evolution of the philosophy of love, there is a clear three-part declension:
1. in the first stage, we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourself, which is, after all, a very easy and obvious thing to ask (well, duh, people whom you like already, are easy to love as yourself);
2. but then comes, second, the radical new idea of loving your enemies, which was a truly new idea in Jesus' time; to love your enemies would be to redefine, through action, the brutal social context in which this phrase was spoken;
3. and so the final, third, stage turns out to be: to love each other as Jesus has loved us; to love each other with supernatural, with divine love--to put ourselves in Jesus' place, and love, not as we, as paltry human beings, might love, but loving as He, the son of God, must love; we must love each other as GOD loves us. Hence, the only way for a disciple to know the true character of God's infinite love, is to become God.
Thus, by asking us to love each other as he has loved us, He is asking us to put on the mantle of the Sons of God, and to love in the highest, old way of Heaven; he is, furthermore, asking us to become the highest old way of Heaven.
Now, it might be said that the main thrust of Jesus' ministry is to call to the attention to men, that: even though they reside in a physical body, they are spiritual beings. Indeed, it is our spiritual natures which reach out to each other, and connect us, creating the love bond between us which gives us satisfaction and peace, in the face of paradoxical physical reality. Loving as the Father loves us revolutionizes the dimension of love, exploding it into an infinite space; man loving, as a God loves, is a new idea.
But there is another sense in which this message may be thought of as new, and that is, as we have spoken of many times: in terms of the epiphanic response. As we have mentioned many, many times, the epiphanic response is the opening of the inner literal eye to spiritual dimensions which defy literal definition, and which always are experienced as something new. The newness of life is a constant awakening, a constant discovery of dimensions of being, which are hidden from us by our literal consciousness. As we take our rollicking voyage through life, we discover at every turn, something new; because, as we travel toward the light, toward the Father, as we look into the face of the Father and see constant evolutions of realization extending into infinity, the newness of life is expressed in newness of love. We discover the virgin birth in ourselves and each other, with every second of profound meditation; and thus the new commandment is not merely to love each other, but to love each other anew.
As I have confessed from this pulpit many times, I am very often arrested and dragged down by memories of the distant past, which continue to torture me as I relive them. Alas, the sequential character of the physical dimension promotes the reliving of the past, the recycling of memories, and the revisiting of old pains. So, once again, the new love which Jesus holds out to us, is not only a feeling of connectedness to others, but a feeling of connectedness to ourselves, as we grow and evolve and leave the past behind us; this newness of love supports us as we discover and cherish new positive universal vibrations, from which the past has always previously blocked us. Too often we have allowed the veil of the past to drape over our eyes and block our vision of the forward movement of life in the spirit; our journey back toward the Father has been impeded by this veil. Only by lifting the veil of literal consciousness, only by entering the cloud of unknowing, will our vision clear and our ability to experience love, as a new experience of the Father, and a new experience of each other, be effected. Let us rejoice in the possibilities of newness.
Many people attempt to experience newness by interrupting routines. We take a vacation from ourselves by going to a different place; sometimes to a different time, sometimes to a different family, sometimes to a different altitude. However, all these surface differences are trivial, compared to the huge differences in perspective we may achieve by simply moving up or down the continuum of consciousness-created existence. Indeed, sometimes the routine of life may contain the very essence of spiritual growth, because in reviewing the old routines we discover new significance, the ever-changing face in the mirror.
It is often said by performers of Bach, that every time they play Bach they discover something new. I used to scoff at this attitude as a form of dilettante-ism, because obviously the notes are always the same and the historical context from which it comes is always the same; but I was forgetting that every time you play a piece of music you're playing a different piece of music, not because the piece of music is different, but because you are different.
Furthermore, opening yourself, to the differences in yourself, will make the subjective reality of the music become an ever-evolving epiphanic experience. Thus, we have the old metaphor of the string lying slack on a table, unrestricted, as a symbol not of freedom, but of bondage; for, to be truly free, the string must be drawn out over the bridge of the violin, stretched, constricted, and restrained by physical tension. This tension allows the string to vibrate, and to express itself; and, in this self-expression, the string finds true freedom, because an expression of, (an affirmation of), self connects us with the Father; and only through the Father do we find true freedom.
Thus, a routine may develop into the most exciting evolution of free acts that can be imagined. This is not necessarily so, because people, who get stuck in the same thought processes, and repeat the same inner monologue to themselves over and over, are not achieving freedom, and they're not achieving any sort of evolution they-- are simply stuck in a rut. But the repetition of an act, or the repetition of a word does, not necessarily mean that they are repeated in the same place at the same time; remember that you can never step into the same river twice, because the river keeps moving, and it is different water that touches your feet at every second of the river's life; stepping deeper into the river brings us closer to losing ourselves, finding ourselves, but it is all still the same river, the same rock. Thus, ought the experience of our lives be such that: every moment is a renewable and renewed experience of ourselves, an ever widening perception of our spiritual possibilities, and an ever more glorious affirmation of our source of being in the Eternal Father.
I'll be honest, the question of unconditional love, in a world in which we are constantly hurting each other, and abusing each other, is a difficult proposition. I still have bugaboos which seem to compromise my ability to love unconditionally: one of them is the question of forgiveness, and the other one is the question of throwing pearls before swine:
The difficulty of forgiveness, in a situation where, by forgiving, you open yourself to the same abuses which closed you to forgiveness in the first place, is a very go very difficult knot. I've struggled with this many times. There are people in my life whom I do not trust with my most precious pearls anymore, and yet Jesus instructs me to forgive these people and give to them as BEFORE. But I have never known whether that means:
to pretend the abuse never happened and is not likely to happen again, or
merely to love in an abstract way, while retaining physical or social distance from these people.
The most burdensome aspect of unforgiveness is its weight on the self, we know this. When you don't forgive someone, it has no effect on them whatever, it only has an effect on you. But when you forgive, you affirm your connectedness to this person, who has abused you, and the knowledge of this connectedness softens the pain and fear associated with such abuses; and when YOU abandon the fear, it opens the door of connectivity with, yea, even our very enemies. Alas, I find it very difficult to forget, but the aspect of the savior, before my blurry eyes, gives me some patience, some peace.
If we are truly born anew, every second, then that past abuse should not be able to touch us; and yet we constantly allow that past to wield an intolerable power over us--a power that compromises our spiritual progress, and which prohibits the possible growth of relationships with these abusive people in anything like a new way.
So, I admit to having problems. However, I am both chastened and encouraged by listening to this doctrine of new love--the doctrine of raising the bar, so that I may love other people not as I would love myself, but as Jesus would love them-- Jesus the forgiver of all Mankind, for the most atrocious abuses. It makes my fear of throwing my pearls before swine seem trivial indeed. It is the most magnificent "giving away"; it is giving away the harbored grudge, the painful slight, the lie, the insult--giving them away whom we snuggled with, who protected us from freaking out when the wound was new--it is releasing ourselves from our self-created bondage, into freedom; it is giving away pain for joy.
Still, the question of throwing pearls before swine is definitely in the Bible; it's definitely a piece of wisdom to heed. The sense of it is this:
you're being stupid if you just open yourself to guaranteed abuse--
but you do have to be willing to throw yourself open to abuse;
you have to be willing to turn that other cheek and let new possibilities unfold without impeding them.
I'm sure there's a line somewhere, over which any kind of sane person will not allow himself to cross-- but let's face it, most of us put that line a lot closer to ourselves than we have to; we should constantly be making an effort to reach out to our enemies, placing that line, over which they must not cross, further and further into their ballpark.
I feel like this is the only way that we can liberate ourselves from the thralldom and the weight of unforgiveness. By unconditional forgiveness we admit the possibility of unconditional love, and with unconditional love comes the connectedness of us all spiritually, as we all are emanations of the Father, and all return, at some time or other, to the Father.
Thus, the process of forgiveness must necessarily involve a redefinition--a rediscovery of an old relationship and a living redefinition of what has happened in the past.
An old teacher of mine told me that "you should always listen to music as if it were written by human being, that is to say, that it has something about it that is true."
Indeed, it is always possible, in any statement, to find something that is true. When we think over the actions of our enemies' abuses, in order to find the truth of their actions, we have to put ourselves into their shoes; and by putting ourselves in their shoes, we are performing an act of love.
From: Orthodox church in america
Volume IV - Spirituality
The Greatest Virtue is Love
The New Commandment
The commandments to love God and neighbor are found in the law of Moses. They are not commandments for God’s people. They are the commandments “written on men’s hearts” and given “by nature” itself. (Romans 2:14-15) They are the commandments given by God in His Words to man “from the beginning.” (I John 2:7)
The new element in this “new commandment” is not the teaching of love, for this was written in the law. The new element is that believers in Christ must love as Christ Himself loves. The new commandment is to love “as I have loved you.”
He committed no sin; no guile was found on His lips. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten; but He trusted to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. (I Peter 2:22-24; cf Isaiah 53)
Having no sin, Jesus took our sins upon Himself and became sin “for us men and for our salvation.” (Nicene Creed) In this the perfect love of God was perfected in a human being, that all humans might share in the love and glory of God. As all of the holy fathers have said, “He became what we are, that we might become what He is… God became man that man might become god.”
“God Became Man that Man Might Become God”
God became man that man may become God.
This provocative statement, “God became man that man might become God,” is from the church father Athanasius (ca 298–373), and was in his massively influential On the Incarnation. It is one of his best-known quotes.
It will be noted that HISTORY is a big deal in this sermon, because we are not only interested in the CURRENT state of consciousness, but also in the past, so that, from the past, we might accurately predict the future. There is prophetic material in this scripture if you look for it.
Rudolf Steiner has provided us with a lovely insight in his The Riddles of Philosophy; he talks about "transcending nature", and draws a link between spirituality and the knowledge of E=mc2:
“Insofar as man considers himself within the world of natural things and events, he will find it impossible to escape the conclusions of [Einstein's] theory of relativity. But if he does not want to lose himself in mere relativities, in what may be called an impotence of his inner life, if he wants to experience his own entity, he must not seek what is 'substantial in itself' in the realm of Nature, but in [the realm] of transcending Nature, in the realm of the spirit.
“It will not be possible to evade this theory of relativity for the physical world, but precisely this fact will drive us to a knowledge of the spirit. What is significant about the theory of relativity is the fact that it proves the necessity of a science of the spirit that is to be sought in spiritual ways, independent of observation in nature. That the theory of relativity forces us to think in this way constitutes its value within the development of world conception.”
--- Rudolf Steiner, The Riddles of Philosophy, p. 444
From this Steiner excerpt, the primary insight, to be gained, is that, over eons of time, the relationship, of man's body to his mind and his spirit, has been evolving; and, as Steiner has said many times elsewhere, Jesus was a major climax of this evolution. The spiritually revolutionary concept of loving as God loves, embodied by the commandment to love as He loves you, is not only miraculous, it is historic. So it is not just that we need to get together as people and love each other, it's that we have reached a new level of consciousness as a race; and this new level of consciousness is defined by: the accessibility of God consciousness through love.
Let us pray: Jesus enter our lives, our minds, and our souls. Take us by the hand; let us reach out to each other with your loving arms. Amen