Prayer is a spiritual discipline that most Christians are familiar with but most of us are frustrated with at times. Why don’t Christians pray more? We don’t know how. If you didn’t grow up in church, or even if you did, praying can be incredibly intimidating, especially if you grew up in a formal church where the pastor […]
The night before Jesus died, as he sat down to enjoy a last supper with his disciples, he gave his disciples a new command that would change everything!
“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
So, what’s the big deal about this new command? Well, in the previous covenant with Israel that Jesus had come to fulfill and replace, the 600+ commandments were how you kept on God’s good side. It’s how you ensured that He would protect you and bless your crops and expand the borders of the nation. It was a conditional covenant: if they obeyed, God would bless them. If they didn’t, God would curse them.
If you read the Old Testament, and I hope you do because it’s a fascinating history of God’s interaction with humanity before Jesus, you’ll discover that humans, even religious ones, have a really bad track record of obeying God. No matter how hard we try, we can’t. We can’t be good all the time. We can’t be good enough on our own to stay on God’s good side.
And for some of you, that’s what’s made religion, even Christianity so exhausting. You try your best to do what you’re supposed to do. You try to get up every morning and read your Bible, you pray as often as you can, you stay away from bad stuff and bad people, you try your hardest to be nice to your family all the time. You come to church every time the doors are open, you give to the church and go on mission trips, all trying to stay on God’s good side. You assume that if you obey enough, if you work hard enough, God will bless you and protect you. The problem is, working to stay in God’s good graces is exhausting. Religion is absolutely exhausting. And at the end of the day, you’re still not going to be good enough.
What’s fascinating is that this one new commandment has nothing to do with God. It has to do with each other. Did you catch that? If Jesus was introducing a new religion you would expect him to give in fine detail exactly all the things we should do to earn God’s favor and blessing. How much are we supposed to pray? How much are we supposed to read our Bibles? How much do we have to go to church? How much money are we supposed to give back to God? Is it really 10% or is there a loophole in there somewhere?
The disciples wanted to know, just like we want to know: how can we be made right with God? How can we earn God’s favor? What do we need to do? Jesus gives them the one commandment and it doesn’t even mention anything about God.
Jesus would say: you’re missing the whole point. I’m taking care of everything between you and God. I’m the sacrifice, once-and-for-all. Once I do what I’m about to do, you’ll never have to worry about being good enough for God again. I’ve done the hard work. I’ll make the sacrifice. Just believe in me!
So why did Jesus give his disciples only one commandment, which had nothing to do with God, but with each other? Because Jesus was trying to get his disciples to understand, “Don’t worry about your relationship with God. Don’t worry about obeying God to earn His favor or blessing. I’ve got you covered. Don’t worry about your relationship with God. You’re good! Go love each other.”
Wow! What a message. If you read the New Testament letters, you’ll discover that early Christians struggled with this revolutionary concept. If you read the book of Galatians, it’s the Apostle Paul reminding Christians that they don’t have to earn God’s favor anymore. Jesus took care of that! You can’t earn God’s favor any more than you can earn salvation.
Jesus took care of it all! Quit worrying about your relationship with God. You and God are good through Jesus! Love each other.