John 13:34 (ESV) … “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
What distinguishes a Christian? What make a Christian stand out in this world? In our focal passage, Jesus gives a new command that is to be a badge of discipleship. By this action Jesus us the world will know that we are his friend and follower.
It is called new, not because there was no command before which required men to love their fellow-men, for one great precept of the law was that they should love their neighbor as themselves (Le. 19:18); but it was new because it had never before been made that by which any class or body of men had been known and distinguished.
In that day, the Jew was known by his external rites, by his peculiarity of dress. The philosopher was known by some other mark of distinction. The military man by another mark of distinction.
In none of those cases had love for each other been the distinguishing and peculiar badge by which they were known. But in the case of Christians they were not to be known by distinctions of wealth, or learning, or fame; they were not to aspire to earthly honors; they were not to adopt any peculiar style of dress or badge, but they were to be distinguished by tender and constant love for each other.
This love was to surmount all distinction of country, of color, of rank, of office, of sect to which they belonged. Here they were to feel that they were on a level, that they had common wants, were redeemed by the same sacred blood, and were going to the same heaven. They were to befriend each other in trials; be careful of each other’s feelings and reputation; deny themselves to promote each other’s welfare.
This command or law was, moreover, new in regard to the extent to which this love was to be carried; for he immediately adds, “As I have loved you, that you also love one another.” His love for them was strong, continued, unremitting, and he was now about to show his love for them in death.