“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
In John’s Gospel Jesus repeats the commandment to “love one another” three times which certainly suggest that the Evangelist John thought it to be an essential teaching of Christ. That same teaching is also taught by St. Paul in His Letter to the Romans (12:10, 13:8) and by St. Peter in his First Epistle (1:22). It is repeated by John the Theologian five times in his First Epistle in chapters 3-4.
Jesus not only commanded us to love one another, He showed us what it meant and how to do it through humble service to one another when He washed His disciple’s feet.
When he [Jesus] had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:12-17)
Jesus was clear that He did not come into the world to please Himself, but rather to serve and save us.
“…whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:44-45)
St. John Chrysostom (d. 407AD) exhorts us to remember that if we are following Christ’s commandment to love, then we will be concerned for the salvation of others – that they too may experience and share in God’s love for us. A Christian has no excuse for being self-centered. There is no rationalization with which we can defend engaging is self-love rather than Christ-like love for others. God’s love for the world is not offered that so that we might become wrapped in on ourselves. We are to be a light to the world and the salt of the earth, which means helping others come to know God’s love for them. Chrysostom writes:
“Nothing is more frigid than a Christian who does not care for salvation of others.
You cannot plead poverty here: for she that cast in her two mites will be your accuser (Lk 21:1). And Peter said: ‘Silver and gold I have none” (Acts 3:6). And Paul was so poor that he was often hungry and lacked the necessary food.
You cannot plead lowness of birth: for they too were ignoble men, and of ignoble parents.
You cannot allege want of education: for they too were ‘unlearned men’ (Acts 4:13).
Even if you are a slave therefore and a runaway slave, you can still do our part: for such was Onesimus…
You cannot plead infirmity: for such was Timothy who often had infirmities…
Every one can profit his neighbor, if he will fulfill his part.”
(Daily Readings from the Writings of St. John Chrysostom, Edited by Anthony M. Coniaris, pg. 109)