Nov 24, 2011

The New Commandment - Israel Atkinson

The "new commandment" (John 13:34) must be included among those that are specially Christian. Both as to its reason and to its rule, this differs from the old commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." The reason of the old commandment is simply moral ; that of the new is Christian ; that is, the love of Christians to Christians is to be shown for Christ's sake. We say, shown, because this affection is as far superior to mere feeling as is a living energy to an empty utterance of an expression of sentiment. The rule of the old commandment is, "as thyself;" this of the new is, "as I have loved you." In the former case a man's neighbor is to be set on a level with himself; in the latter a Christian is to advance his fellow Christian above, or before himself. Jesus taught his disciples that he that sitteth at meat is greater than he that servcth ; 'I but," said the Lord of all, " I am among you as one that serveth." Answerably to this example, the new commandment must be interpreted as binding Christians to prefer each other in honour; to submit themselves one to another ; each to esteem other better than themselves; and all to make themselves of no reputation, cheerfully to take upon themselves the form of a servant, and in this capacity lovingly to serve their brethren "for Jesus' sake." But more ; Jesus repeated his commandment to his disciples with a very important additional instruction." This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." From this, then, it will be seen without doubt, that Christians, if occasion require, "ought to lay down their lives for the brethren." But all this is peculiarly Christian law for Christians. Bound as all men are, independently of belief in Christ, to love their neighbours as themselves, no unbeliever is obliged to love a Christian, as such, more than he is a heathen. If a heathen refuses to prefer in honour a Christian, as such, before himself, to esteem him better than himself, to submit to him, and to lay down his life for him, he will be a transgressor of no precept under which he is bound; but a default in either of these cases would be chargeable upon a Christian as a breach of the "new commandment."

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