In 2003, I was asked to speak at a nearby church. I asked the Lord what he wanted me to say? It seemed he wanted me to “talk about the theme, love one another.” I didn’t know the people in the church where I was to speak, so I prayed, “OK if that’s what you want, but what passage should I use?”
I felt that he was pointing me to “John 15.” As I recalled, that chapter was on abiding in Christ or on bearing fruit. I checked again. Sure enough it was on both.
Confronted by the Truth
I reread the entire passage. Yes, it was on abiding in Christ, and yes, by doing so we would bear fruit. But, I began to realize that the entire passage was founded on loving one another. It was time to read the chapter with a fresh perspective. I read through the first few verses until I came to verse 8: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” That caught my attention. For quite some years now, there has been much focus on worship. The desire to glorify the Father and to become truly intimate with the Lord was the reason for the focus. Verse 8 drew my attention because for me doing ministry had to glorify God or it was worthless. Worship and ministry both are all about glorifying God. So here I found Jesus’ words about how to glorify His father.
This put me on a quest. Jesus said that in order to glorify the Father, I must bear much fruit. But what really is bearing fruit? The standard answer I always got was that it had to do with evangelism. Verse 5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” I’ve heard this verse interpreted to mean that in order to bring in the harvest one must spend sufficient time in prayer and worship and be able to hear God’s voice in the course of evangelism. This verse does say that to bear much fruit, a man must remain in Christ. How does one remain in Christ?
Verse 10 speaks to that: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” To remain in Christ, I must obey Christ’s commands. It doesn’t specifically say devotion, nor does it talk about hearing God’s voice. What are Christ’s commands? If this verse is referring to all biblical commands, goodnight! We would never be able to remain in Christ’s love. Thank God the Old Testament commands are over. But we have Christ’s commands in the New Testament.
Then I came upon verses 12-13: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus was actually focusing in on one major command—loving one another. This is the new command he gave. If the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and the greatest love of all is to lay down your life for your friends, then Jesus loved and worshipped God by doing the greatest love of all—to lay down his life for all of us. His was the greatest and most supreme act of worship!
In Algebra, if x=y and y=z, then x=z. You can boil down the formula to the simplest equation. When I read this passage with a fresh new look, I saw the equation: Glorify the Father = bear much fruit = remain in Christ = obey His commands = love one another. The simplest equation then is: Glorify the Father = love one another.
These are the conclusions I found:
- Remaining in Christ is not about private worship or about hearing His still small voice, although both are important.
- When John 15 talks about obeying Christ’s commands, it is specifically speaking about loving one another.
- Bearing much fruit is not about evangelism per se. There is a connection however that we will find elsewhere.
- Glorifying the Father is definitely not just worshipping him by singing. The most important aspect of worship has to do with our relationship with our brothers and sisters.
John points out a number of benefits that come out of loving one another. These are scattered throughout chapters 13-17, but especially here in chapter 15.
Verse 7: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Verse 16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”
Jesus promises answered prayers for those who love one another. I wonder if that’s the reason so many miracles happened alongside Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35. (These passages in Acts are the early church testimony of how they obeyed John 15. They were so much closer to the action than we are and had the live personal testimony and teachings of the Apostles who were entrusted with the words of Jesus. Surely the Apostles must have an idea how to live out John 15.)
Verse 11: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Out of this realization of loving one another came revival in our prison ministry. What we were learning in theory, the Holy Spirit was showing us by His grace in practical at our prison ministry. As we lived out the loving-one-another command, joy overwhelmed us. Whereas before there was a certain amount of dissatisfaction and continued thirst that I had in my heart even in the midst of the greatest move of renewal and manifestations in our church, this move of the Holy Spirit gave me an overwhelming sense of complete satisfaction and joy. In fact, it gave me an overwhelming sense of the love of God—one that I could never have felt through just personal worship!
Verse 14: “You are my friends if you do what I command.” I guess this one doesn’t need any explanation.
World convinced: We are true Christians
John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” For so long I have wondered over this verse. It didn’t seem to work. Was this an empty promise? All I can see is a world that’s completely dissatisfied and turned off by modern Christianity. Why? And yet we find in Acts 2 and 4 a Christian community whose neighbors are drawn in by the loving relationships they had. They enjoyed the favor of their communities!
World convinced: Jesus is the Sent One
John 17:20-23: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Jesus gives us the only formula to evangelize the entire world—love one another leading to complete unity. We evangelicals keep on saying “diversity in unity” yet the world is not convinced. They see modern Christianity as greatly fragmented and divided and highly antagonistic towards each other. We want diversity in unity so we divide. But Paul encouraged the Corinthians to not divide (unity) and yet learn to live with each other’s differences (diversity). He encouraged the Ephesians to keep unity through the bond of peace.
Vision of loving one another
Next thing, the Spirit led me to 1 John 3 and 4 to show me how loving one another looks like.
3:16-18: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
4:20: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”
Loving one another has to do with caring for the needs of your brother or sister. It means going out of one’s way to serve a brother in need. That’s what we see in Acts 2 and 4. That’s what I don’t see in modern Christianity. Our churches are run like welfare societies. We give to the church (meaning church administration) and expect them to take care of the poor among us or to conduct compassion ministries. In the early church everyone took part in a church-wide compassion ministry. Everyone helped out everyone in need. And the money given out wasn’t just a collection of tithes or special offerings to compassion ministries. The early Christians sold their own possessions and personally made sure that none of God’s children went hungry.
The principle that operated was one of “equality” as explained by Paul in 2 Corinthians 8. Christians who have must give to Christians who have not so that there may be equality. Perhaps this is the reason why God has not distributed wealth equally among all believers, so that the rich may have the responsibility to take care of the poor. This must be the same reason God does not distribute spiritual gifts equally among His children, so that we would all have to serve each other and need each other. (God did not create Adam to need only Him. He created him to need a helper—Eve.)
When manna came down from heaven, those who gathered much and those who gathered little did not have too much or too little. How did that happen? Resource-wise, some of us have much while some have little. The only way there could be equality is if we shared with each other.
James spoke in the same vein as John.
2:14-16: “What good is it, my brother, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”
James says that the rich have a low position (1:10) and the poor have a high position (v.9). In the church, God has given each one of us to each other. “Each member belongs to all the others” (Rom. 12:5). We must care for each other.
That is why Paul scolded the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22. Instead of waiting for each other at communion which at that time included a meal, the Corinthians had no care for the late-comers. Some were stuffed while the others were hungry. Some even got drunk. There were divisions among them so they had no care for each other. The unworthy manner with which they partook of the communion was the way they looked down on and had no care for each other (v.27-34). Communion is about sharing in the body and blood of Jesus. It is a powerful sermon of how we must share in all that the Lord has given to us. We must wait for each other and care for each other.
Communion is a lesson of humility. Romans 12, which talks about being a living sacrifice, encourages us to be humble towards each other. Each one has gifts that we need to use to serve each other. The pattern of the world is selfishness, greed, and pride. But we need to be transformed to one of selflessness, giving, and humility. Paul describes what a transformed life looks like in verses 9-21. This is a description of what it takes to love one another—the greatest love of all, the greatest act of worship.
Loving one another has three dimensions:
Upward – By loving one another we glorify God. This is the greatest act of worship—the act Jesus performed on Calvary.
Inward – By loving one another we serve each other. This is fellowship. We need to use our spiritual gifts and financial resources to love each other.
Outward – By loving one another we declare to the whole world that Jesus is the Christ, the Sent One, and that we are truly His followers. No one will be able to dispute it because the outward signs are very visible—we really care for each other. What unbeliever doesn’t want to be loved?
I find here one thing, one new command, that if we do well, we effectively fulfill the entire law. LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
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