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One Another

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

Los Unos a Los Otros

Este mandamiento nuevo les doy: que se amen los unos a los otros. Así como yo los he amado, también ustedes deben amarse los unos a los otros. De este modo todos sabrán que son mis discípulos, si se aman los unos a los otros.

Juan 13:34-35


 

The Theme + Biblical Context

On the night of his betrayal and arrest, Jesus gave his disciples his love mandate: “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.”

Love, love, love, love / agape, agage, agape, agape. One another. One another. One another.

In these parting words before his crucifixion, Jesus doesn’t want us to miss his point: love one another. And what does this love look like? The context of John 13 gives us a startling picture..

The scene is an intimate one between Jesus and his friends on the night of his arrest (in the Christian tradition this is called Maundy Thursday). Jesus gathered with his disciples to share a final meal and then proceeded to wash their feet. This foot-washing scene may strike us as odd (when was the last time you washed someone else’s feet?), but it was a common one in the 1st century, but it was a task relegated to servants. Jesus, as he is prone to do, flips the script. Jesus takes the form and role of a servant (cf. Phi. 2), to demonstrate what true love looks like. Love humbly looks to the interest of one another. What is even more, when Jesus went around the circle kneeling before his disciples to wash their dusty feet he eventually came to Judas and kneeled before him, removed his sandals, and gently washed even his feet. Such an act upends how we often think of one another. Even Judas is included in Jesus’ ‘love one another'!’

It is important to note that we do not muster this love for one another from our own strength or willpower. Instead Jesus says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Not only does Jesus model what love for one another looks like, he is the reason we can love one another. One writer put it this way: “Only the person who has been loved can love.” In Christ, we have experienced love and seen love in action. In response, Jesus calls us to extend that love to one another. 

These final words from Jesus are an incredible invitation. Biblical commentator, Frederick Dale Bruner states, “The mutually lived-out heart love of Christians for one another will be the single greatest missionary force in the world.” Catholic scholar Raymond Brown, commenting on this passage also notes, “as long as Christian love is in the world, the world is still encountering Jesus.” 

If we step back from John 13 and zoom out to look at the whole biblical narrative, we find this indistinguishable connection between our love of God and love of one another throughout all of the Bible. For instance, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was in all of the Scriptures he linked two commandments together: the first and greatest commandment is to love God, said Jesus, and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. To love God and to love others are linked together like the two sides of a Möbius strip - one side naturally leads to the other.  

While our theme of one another arises out of John 13:34-35, it can be found all throughout the New Testament as well. There are at least 59 times that the phrase is used in the New Testament, each time giving instructions on how Christians are to “do life together.” The most common usage has already been mentioned: “love one another.” This gets mentioned no less than sixteen times in the New Testament. Perhaps that’s our overarching call and all of the rest of the “one another” passages help us understand how we do just that:

We honor one another (Rom 12:10)
We build up one another (1 Thess 5:11)
We serve one another (Gal 5:13)
We forgive one another (Eph 4:2, Col 3:13)
We are kind and compassionate to one another (Eph 4:32)
We confess our sins to one another (James 5:16)
We show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)

It is our hope that the theme of “one another” and all the various manifestations of it through the New Testament will help us explore all the various ways in which we are called to love one another for “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

—Mark VanderWef | Chaplain, Grand Rapids Christian High School


 

 


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