“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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35 (ESV)
The word for commandment in this verse could also be translated ‘precept.’ The people of the time when Jesus was on earth understood the word and John uses it to identify three connections. It identified a legal order issued by the Sanhedrin or Jewish Supreme court¹; It also identified a charge or instruction Jesus received from the Father²; And it identified a commandment given by Jesus to his disciples³. A legal order is issued by men who may or may not have a warm, personal interest in those who are required to obey it. The charge or instruction given by the Father to His Son; from the Sender in his love to the Sent One. Therefor this precept is a rule, a new commandment from Jesus. It is illustrated by his own life and example, it becomes a directive of conduct and attitude of how His disciples, behave toward all people. To Christ, to one another, and to the world, a genuine, deep-seated and self-sacrificing love for one another is the distinctive trait of the Christian. It is by this that all others will recognize that we belong to Christ and no other deity.*
²John 10:18; 12:49 -50; 14:31
³John 13:34; 14:15, 21; 15:10, 12
[*] William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 2:253.