“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
In Latin, that verse begins mandatum novum do vobis. We’d call it a “mandate.” A command. An order. Jesus gives his disciples this command on Thursday night, which we call Maundy Thursday, after he has washed their feet. This is more than “I really want you to,” or “You really should,” or “I hope you will,” or “Why don’t you give it a try.” This is mandatory.
We’ve mastered many “one anothers.” We’re jealous of one another, annoyed with one another, upset with one another, and tired of one another. We envy one another, irritate one another, ignore one another, and anger one another. Love one another? That is something new and novel.
This mandate goes beyond tolerating one another, accepting one another, and being kind to one another. Jesus’ love was sacrificial. He gave his life for us without expecting anything in return. This is his definition of love. You pour out your life. You pour yourself into someone else. It’s one way. It flows out of you. There’s nothing in it for you. You get no return on your investment. And did I mention, this is mandatory.
My definition of love is usually different than his. I tend to love those who do things for me. I love those who are attractive. I love those who give me gifts. (I really enjoy food gifts.) I love people who are nice to me. I love folks who are lovable. Bottom line: I love those who love me.
Jesus reminds us that anyone can do that. Anyone can love someone who first loves them. Anyone can do that with their eyes closed and one hand tied behind their back. If you want to stand out, you love like Jesus. If you want to love like Jesus, you have to get to know him. And when you get to know him, you are overwhelmed by his love.
So what do I do with this command, this order, this mandate? Well, if I want to imitate someone, I am going to watch them, study their every move, and do everything they do. I would go to every performance I could, watch videos, and listen to their recordings over and over again. I would practice, practice, practice. Of course, I wouldn’t get it right the first time. Or the second. Or the thirty-fifth time. I would practice in front of a mirror. I would get someone to watch and listen to me, and then tell me how I was doing. In time, I would get better and better.
I think that’s what Jesus meant when he invited a few to follow him. Watch. Listen. Learn. And imitate. Be a copycat.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, than to love like Jesus is the highest form of worship.
When I grow up Lord, I want to be like you.