What is New in the Command to ‘Love One Another’?


The readings from this reflection: Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41;Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

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Is this command really that new? Hadn’t it been part of the tradition of Israel, loving God and neighbor with all one’s strength? Didn’t all of the great Eastern religions, before Christ, exhort their followers to love one another and bring humankind into one caring community? Hadn’t many of the Greek philosophers recommended the same path of life? How indeed can Jesus claim that his command is new?

In the Sermon on the Mount, we get several clues that lead us to an answer to that question. This sermon makes demands on our love that are plainly unreasonable. That famous sermon directs us to love even the most hateful of people. It commands us to return good for evil, to communicate healing rather than revenge. Christ tells us to do good to the most obnoxious of people, to love them when there is no reason to do so. Jesus commands us to love without any human reason at all, to go beyond human reason and love because God assures us that there must be something loveable in everyone, even if we couldn’t perceive it in a thousand years of searching.

In a nutshell, that’s what is new about Christ’s command of love. The earlier religions and the great philosophers were much more reasonable in their love exhortations.

Christians today are faced with great challenges as they attempt to carry out this “new part” of the love command.

What’s new? A great deal.

Fr. Miller is a retired priest of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau