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.”
Why is this a new commandment? Jesus had already set a very high bar for how much we are to love.
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” — Matthew 28:35–40
What’s new about this one? How can that go beyond loving the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind? How can it be so different that it will cause people to recognize them as “My disciples”?
At the moment, the disciples might not be able to imagine an answer. But Jesus is about to go to the cross, taking love to a new level. This will challenge them to go beyond what is currently all their heart, soul, and mind can muster.
If they can do that, people will definitely recognize them as His disciples.
Now comes the hammer. Up to this point, the kingdom perspective sounds like it’s just a matter of getting into the right mindset. No big effort. No pain. No sacrifice.
No such luck. The kingdom attitude can include big sacrifice, even ultimate sacrifice. Remember, it’s all about not being distracted. What are the most distracting things in the world?
Danger (or its emotion, fear) and pain. Our natural response to them is essential. It’s hardwired into us by our creator to get our attention. We need it to survive.
We are not called to ignore these danger signals; we’re called to not be distracted by them. Don’t lose focus. This is standard training to prepare anyone for conflict. The Marines use it. Karate classes use it.
The whole New Testament is the story of the distractions facing kingdom citizens and how they either kept their focus or lost it. Jesus kept His focus every time, often surprising His followers. He did it on the way to the cross, and He did it on the cross. The apostles almost kept their focus perfectly too.
Peter denying Christ three times is the classic exception. He was under tremendous pressure.
And He forgot.
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