“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).
The ‘new’ command is not the same as the ‘Royal Law’ (love thy neighbor as thyself) (Lev. 19:18; James 2:8). They are very different. The Royal Law has a different subject of its love. The Royal Law directs its love toward the neighbor. That can be anyone in need (Luke 10:29-37). The new commandment directs that love only toward ‘one another,’ God’s children, ‘the least of these my brethren,’ not just anyone (John 13:34,35).
Neither is the ‘new’ command the same as the Royal Law in the content of that love. The love of the Royal Law, is to love as we love ourselves – ‘love thy neighbour as thyself.’ The ‘new’ command is to love ‘as I have loved you.’ Jesus’ love and our love are very different. His love is far greater. The Royal Law is satisfied with our love, but the new command requires us to grow to have Jesus’ love.
The new command is not all-encompassing. It does not direct us to have Jesus’ love for his Father, his enemy, his neighbor or his friend. The new command singularly directs us to love each other as Jesus loves God’s children (“as I have loved you”). Jesus’ love toward God’s children is ‘perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:4). As long as we are lacking in any one part of Christ’s love, we can not love God’s children with Jesus’ complete love. He did not lack any part. We must grow to have all of the parts of Christ’s love in our hearts in order to obey the new commandment. This is identical with the ‘perfect love.’
We can not obey the new command the first day we hear it. We can immediately obey the Royal Law. Our love for ourselves already exists. It is merely a question of redirecting that same love toward our neighbor. However, loving one another as Christ loves us, can not be accomplished the same day. To love as Christ loves, takes 1)knowing the love of Christ and 2) growing into that complete love which Christ has. This surely is a new and beautiful commandment. This is New Testament discipleship, the aim of the great commission, the purpose of God.