Tag Archives: New commandment

What is new about the new commandment?

May 16, 2019

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At the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples, “I give you a new commandment: love one another” (Jn 13:34a). Jesus said that his commandment was “new.” What is new about it?

A New Commandment Giver. Previously in the Old Testament, the person who gave the commandments was Moses who spoke on behalf of God. This commandment was new because it was given by Jesus, the Son of God, who did not speak on his own, but said all that the Father commanded him to say and speak (Jn 12:49).

New CommandmentA New Single Commandment. Previously there were Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17; Dt 5:6-21), as well as the Mosaic Law with its 613 precepts, the Law of Ezra, and the Oral Law. The new commandment simplified and consolidated hundreds of commandments into a single commandment. As St. Paul stated, “The one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8), and, “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:10).

A New Exemplar. Jesus taught, “As I have loved you, so you should love one another” (Jn 13:34b). Jesus demonstrated an entirely new kind of love, a self-giving, self-sacrificing kind of love, love without strings attached, a love with no expectation of repayment (see Lk 14:12). Jesus explained, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). Jesus emptied himself for the sake of all (Phil 2:7). Jesus laid down his life freely for others (see Jn 10:18).

A New Pathway to God. Previously it was thought that a person loved God by going directly to God, and that the relationship was strictly vertical, from an individual person below to God above. Jesus broached a new paradigm: a person loves God by loving one’s neighbor, a horizontal relationship: a person goes to God through one’s neighbor. Jesus equated love of God with love of neighbor. It is the second half of the Great Commandment (see Mt 22:39;.Mk 12:31; Lk10:27). As John observed, “How can you love God, whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you do see?” (paraphrase, 1 Jn 4:20,21).

A New Idealism. Previously the commandments gave a list of dos and don’ts, what a person should do and not do, a well-defined legal code, the minimum standards for the spiritual life. The commandment to love others is new because it states an ideal, not compliance with a set of rules and regulations, but the best a person can do.

A New Broader Focus. Previously a person was expected to love one’s family; fellow Jews; one’s next-door neighbors, one’s townsfolk; those of the same ethnic heritage; and the people who lived in one’s country, one’s fellow citizens, those of the same nationality. The new commandment dramatically expands the focus of those who should be loved. Jesus taught, “Love your enemy” (Mt 5:44). Disciples are to love foreigners, aliens, strangers, those of different faiths, different racial groups, different countries, as well as sinners. Disciples of Jesus are to love everyone.

A New Compassion. Previously a person who was offended by a sinner was required to forgive three times, and if the offender persisted in offensive and sinful behavior, forgiveness was no longer demanded. Jesus proposed a new standard, if your brother sins, forgive him, “seventy-seven times” (Mt 18:22), as many times as necessary. Jesus displayed this new compassionate love from the cross when he said to the worst of sinners, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).

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