In all of his teachings, Jesus identified only one attribute that would separate his followers from everyone else, and that attribute is our love for one another. How sad, then, that Western Christians today have a largely-earned reputation for being gossipy, petty, and quarrelsome among ourselves. Sadder still is the way we often try to fix this problem, with a shallow version of "love" - smiles, compliments, a big group hug to smother contention. Such charades may provide a veneer of peace in the church, but they are no substitute for the true love we ought to be living, nor do they really distinguish us from the world.
Jesus didn't just command us to love each other. He said, "as I have loved you," and those words are crucial. Jesus' love for the disciples expressed itself in a much deeper way than a few kind words and deeds. He laid his very life down for them, and God's Word tells us that we are to do the same thing for one another (1 Jn. 3:16).
Laying down your life means choosing what is good for the person you love, rather than what you want for yourself. This kind of love can be expressed in many ways that have nothing to do with physical death. When we entreat those who revile us, when we allow ourselves to be wronged, when we choose to forgive and bless, when we warn those who are straying even though we may suffer for it, we are laying down our lives. This is love, and this is how the world will know that we belong to Jesus.
All Scripture references from KJV. Commentary ©2013 Hitchcock Family Ministry. Unaltered text may be reproduced freely without financial gain. Original commentary and Scripture song available at http://www.freescripturesongs.org/a-new-commandment-I-give-unto-you.