'a new commandment i give unto you," said Christ Jesus, "That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another" (John 13:34).
That "new commandment" has now been around nearly 2,000 years. Is it still new? What makes anything new?
Consider something as commonplace as a Christmas present. What makes a gift new in the life of a child? What happens when he or she gets a new bike or a new surfboard? Every parent has noticed that a child's response is different for a time. With a new surfboard, for instance, he or she handles it with extra thought, extra care. Spreads a coat of wax evenly on it for surer footing. Then devotes long hours and attention to the board, trying it out, seeing how it cuts a wave, learning how it turns, and so on.
Technically, you could argue, the surfboard itself might not be that new. It probably was designed and shaped and fiberglassed months before. Even if it wasn't owned by another surfer, other people may have taken it on test rides. Perhaps it was stored in the shop a season or more before the parent came along and bought it.
What makes it new is the response to it. In a way, what makes anything new is less the thing itself and more the thought, the treatment, the response, one brings, whether it's a new surfboard or new bike or whatever.
Could so commonplace a happening illumine something as uncommon as the instruction of Jesus? Maybe. Maybe the newness of his commandment springs from our response to it, specifically the love we bring to his teachings and to one another. Love for God, love for Christ, love for one another that is as fresh as this moment.
And that's not just any kind of love. We are called to love as Jesus loved. That means a love so pure that we are actually seeing in one another the very likeness of God, who is divine Love. Then that 2,000-year-old commandment is alive, is current each day, as we live it and love in accord with it.
If what preserves the newness of Jesus' command is our response, then what is it that draws forth that response? We're told to love one another as Christ loved us. And Christ didn't just love us then. Christ loves us now. Today. This love is new, fresh, untarnished. Think of Christ as the spirit of Love coming to you as a message from God, coming anew every day. Its warmth is energizing, renewing, healing. It melts away coldness, hardness, disappointments from old hurts, and past emotional wounds. So the question of newness is more than idle semantics. Newness characterizes the vital healing power we experience each time we consciously express divine Love in individual ways.
God is loving us each day, each moment. His message, His Christ, is reaching us constantly. And this is what calls forth our new response. In other words, our love-filled response keeps the new commandment still new.
Mary Baker Eddy, who in 1866 discovered the Science of Christianity, observed: "Jesus, who so loved the world that he gave his life (in the flesh) for it, saw that Love had a new commandment even for him. What was it?
"It must have been a rare revelation of infinite Love, a new tone on the scale ascending, such as eternity is ever sounding" ("Miscellaneous Writings," Pg. 292).
It's interesting to speak of a "new tone" and then to refer to what "eternity is ever sounding." Perhaps we could say there is both a newness and an eternalness about God's commands. That's the way things often work. Truths that are timely may also be timeless.
As we open our hearts and our lives to all that God is commanding us to do, we'll find it natural to express love. The Christ message calling forth this response is newer than a fresh wave curving toward shore. It's more eternal than all the waves that have ever been and will be.
Articles like this one are published in 13 different language editions of The Herald of Christian Science.