This is my command: Love each other.
In the words of Christ we find not only what we are to understand and to believe and to do, but we also see a spiritual therapy for our souls that the Holy Spirit inspired. There is a spiritual benefit for our hearts to reading these words of Christ together. He has spoken about our life in Him, about our calling and appointment, about bearing eternal fruit, and now He says we are to love one another. This brings this command down to earth, down to the day-to-day living that we do - and not just this command but all the teachings that have preceded it.
Christ as the Master Teacher always brings His instruction down to the level of choice and action today. Do we have life in God? Are we called and appointed? Do we know Him as our Vine? Has the Son and the Father come and indwelt us? Then love one another. God does not take us and leave us on a mountain top removed from all contact with others and tell us to perfect our Christian life there. We may withdraw for a brief period for our spiritual benefit, but quickly He brings us down to earth to deal with real people and real situations. And the hallmark of His touch upon our souls and in our lives is love for others. If He is to us all that He says He should be then we will show it by loving others.
There is an educational principle that we go from what we know to what we must learn, or that we proceed step-by-step in our learning. What we learn in one grade level we use to get us to the next grade level, and so on. God uses a similar method within us, taking us where we are and building us up. So He tells us to love the ones around us first, and then our love will grow. In his first epistle John wrote, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8). The nature of God is love, so if He is our life we will be shaped by His love. But John taught that we must start loving those around us, “Anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, who he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
On this passage Professor Albert Barnes wrote:
The apostle is arguing from human nature as it is, and every one feels that we are more likely to love one with whom we are familiar than one who is a stranger. If a professed Christian, therefore, does not love one who bears the Divine image, whom he sees and knows, how can he love that God whose image he bears, whom he has not seen?
The Lord is saying something of great importance and of great practical use - that our love for God will flow over into our love for others. How many Christians share their testimony about their conversion and then say that immediately after they took Christ as their Savior they felt that they loved the whole world. D.L. Moody spoke on his own conversion and said, “I had not a bitter feeling against any man, and I was ready to take all men to heart.”
So if Christ is our life, we will love others. Who are you loving today for the sake of Christ? Who are you reaching out to in His name? The same love that leads us to sing songs of devotion and praise to Him can also be expressed in loving others on earth. Though this passage speaks of Christians loving other Christians, love by its very nature does not place strict boundaries across its targets, but it spills over to touch the whole world. If you would bear fruit for Christ, love someone else today. Begin with those nearest and dearest and get rid of all bitterness and animosity. God will increase your love and your joy as well as you do so.