A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another – John 13:34
Meaning of John 13:34
The meaning of the verse, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” is that Jesus wants his children to love one other in the way he has loved his children. The term “new commandment” is not a reference to the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament but is something to be re-emphasized and highlighted. This commandment was given in the context of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. In the preceding verses, Jesus talks about humility and says that if the master is as humble as a servant, then so should those who follow him. He then issues a commandment that sets his love for his people as the standard to which every believer should aspire to have. Love is meant to be the most powerful sign of the Christian faith.
Interpretations of John 13:34
John 13:34 is a commonly quoted verse in churches and among Christians. However, the verse is often taken out of context and interpreted in different ways. Here are some examples.
Interpretation #1 Forgiveness is a form of love
The interpretation of the verse, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” is that forgiving someone is a way of showing love. Here the reader believes in one of the primary foundations of the Bible, which is forgiveness. The Lord’s prayer also talks about forgiving others as He has and will forgive His people. So, no matter how much he or she has been harmed or hurt by people, they should always choose to forgive. The reader also believes that loving one another includes forgiving and forgetting what the enemies have done.
Interpretation #2 The verse is the eleventh commandment
In this version, the reader believes that the verse, “A new commandment I give unto you” is an eleventh commandment given by Jesus. The Old Testament consists of the Ten Commandments God had given to the Israelites through Moses. The usage of the term “New Commandment” by Jesus is an indication that the verse is an addition to the existent ten commandments. It can also mean that, like the ten commandments, the verse is a law every Christian requires to follow to please God and go to heaven.
Interpretation #3 The verse applies to only disciples and church leaders
The interpretation of the verse, “A new commandment I give unto you” is that the verse is meant for only the disciples and leaders of the churches. The reader understands that when Jesus spoke these words, he was addressing all his disciples specifically. The twelve disciples were chosen by Jesus and were expected to carry out his teachings throughout the world. He had spent years training and preparing them to preach the “Good News” of salvation. Hence, the reader believes that this verse is one of Jesus’ teachings for the disciples or His immediate followers.
Interpretation #4 Love means dying for others
In this version, the reader believes that in order to show that he or she loves someone, they should die for them. When Christ said to his disciples that, “as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” before the Passover festival, He was referring to His impending death, i.e., crucifixion. He wants his children, disciples, and believers to give up their lives for others in order to prove or express their love. Every Christian believes that the greatest act of love God did for His people, according to John 3:16, was to die on the cross and hence is teaching through this verse to do the same.
Interpretation #5 Loving one another selflessly brings world peace
The interpretation of the verse, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” is that loving one another unconditionally brings peace in the world. As a mother or father wants to see their children love one another, Jesus too wants to see His children love one another selflessly. Jesus is setting His own love for his children as a standard for everyone to follow. The reader believes that Jesus’ act of dying on the cross for everyone was the greatest act of love. However, the verse doesn’t always demand a person to sacrifice himself or herself but have a love for others enough to care, provide and forgive if they can.
Historical background of John 13:34
The Book of John was written by John the Evangelist. Similar to the other three gospels, John covered the events of Jesus’ birth, death, works, teachings, and redemption. John 13th is a part of the “latter half” or “closing part” of John’s Gospel. The book has a second name, “The Holy of Holies of the New Testament.” The chapter begins with John’s record of events on the final night before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, emphasizing Jesus’ love for his disciples. The 34th verse, in particular, focuses on loving one another like Jesus loved his children.
Literary Devices of John 13:34
The verse of John 13:34 is a commandment John gave to Christians on behalf of God. It is a simple statement but consists of some significant literary devices. Here are some examples.
Consonance – The verse has rich use of consonant sounds in repetition. For example, the sound of /v/, the sound of /l/, the sound of /n/, the sound of /y/, and the sound of /th/ in ‘That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another’.
Parallelism – The verse is a good example of parallelism as the verse implies the same message and meaning as in Leviticus 19:18, You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.