Christian Counseling: The Eleventh Commandment

How many commandments do we need? Aren't ten enough? Apparently not because Jesus gave us another. Really, it is a commandment of summation about all the laws, which can be seen in the original Ten Commandments.

Think about the spirit in which the Ten Commandments were written. Exodus chapter 20 reveals these laws to us: have no other gods before Him, do not make any idol, do not take His name in vain, keep the sabbath holy, honor your mother and father, and do not murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, or covet. Do you see an unspoken theme in these laws? That theme is the same as the the eleventh commandment.

Jesus said to His disciples, "'A new [eleventh] commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another'" (John 13:34). In the Greek, the word "new" isn't referring to something original or brand new, but new in that it is refreshed, or said in another way. Jesus' words are an example of poetry known as parallelism (this form being a symmetrical expression of the same idea--"love one another") making these words catchy, stand out and, perhaps, easier to remember. He wanted all His disciples, present and future, to get this--"love" is chief above all. It is iterated in other words of Jesus, that the greatest two commandments of all time are to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). The next verse, 40, says "'On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.'" And Romans 13:10 says, "love therefore is the fulfillment of the law."

Why is it so important to God that we have love over and above all else beyond the one just mentioned--fulfillment of the law and prophets? For many reasons, such as God not only loves, but "is" love; that is, it is His nature and not just a behavior. In John 34:35 we find another reason loving one another is foundational--"'By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.'" Love is the perfect bond of unity, which Jesus deeply wants and earnestly prayed about--"that they all maybe one, even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You did send Me [emphasis mine]'" (John 17:21). The primary way Jesus is revealed to the world and glorified is through the love we have for and show to one another.

This Biblical, agape love is not ordinary, not common, but much, much more. It is radical. It requires everything. It brings one to becoming unconditionally willing to give up all to Him and to others in genuine need. In Acts, believers shared all possessions. In Jesus' life, love is seen in leaving His heavenly home and family and coming to earth, having no place to sleep, compassionately ministering in every way to those around Him, and then, having no greater love than this, He surrendered His life to be broken and killed. We are to go beyond loving those that love us, to a radical love that includes our enemies, the lowly, difficult, undeserving, sinners, unlovely and different.

Are you loving from a distance? Do you permit yourself to be vulnerable in giving love? Do you give it only to those who love you back? Do you go out of your way to love those who are hard or scary? I don't believe we Christians (that includes me) love well, but we love safely and conveniently. We allow ourselves to be too busy with incidentals and our own schedules. We do not love one another in the way that allows for the formation of deep emotional and spiritual bonds, which are beacons to the world declaring we are unique and offer something substantial beyond any other religion, culture or pleasure. 

I should think that anyone who loves well has succeeded in becoming Christlike; the best person he or she could. I believe to express love and be love is the greatest challenge to becoming a mature Christian. In so doing, we keep the law, avoid sin, bring heaven to earth, and provide the brightest and purist light available to draw the world's attention to the Jesus behind our loving one another.

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