As summer simmers along, schools are already preparing to go back in session. Although the material is very much the same basic information and principles taught year after year, effective teaching often requires new lesson plans.

Often called “Teacher”, Jesus of Nazareth reintroduced a very old principal with a new lesson plan to His followers, found in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Jesus gave a “new command,” but the Old Testament shows that loving your neighbor was actually a very old command. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself…” (Lev. 19:18) “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on… anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Deut. 5:21)

According to Jesus, loving God and neighbor was a summary of the Law: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:39-40). The apostle Paul later affirmed this: “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery… murder… steal… covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ … love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom. 13:9-10)

What was “new” about Jesus’ command was not the principal but the example: “As I have loved you…”. His example had not been fully realized before Christ came to live with and die for us. Jesus didn’t come to change or eliminate the Law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17), which He did by providing a living example of how we should love our neighbor. God so loved this world full of sinners who hurt each other and rebelled against God that He gave us His very best—His Son. That Son, Jesus—who was God incarnate—gave Himself up for us (Romans 5:8).

When putting this lesson into practice, consider that when “God so loved the world”, He was loving and giving Himself to a sinning world. We love as Jesus did not just by giving of ourselves to others, but seeing others as God sees them—first of all as human beings bearing the likeness of the God who created them (Gen. 1:27), whom God loves (John 3:16), and sinners for whom Christ died to save (1 Pet. 3:18). Love others accordingly.

I guess you could say that it was the same lesson, but a new lesson plan. Want to know what loving your neighbor is all about? Take a good look at what Jesus taught and lived in front of His neighbors. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

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