I give you a new commandment

I have always wondered what is “new” about this commandment: I give you a new commandment: love one another. [1] [Jn 13:34] Even the note in the NABRE states: “The commandment itself is not new,” and goes on to cite: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.[Lev 19:18]

I wonder whether the “new” aspect of this is two-fold: (a) by stating it is new, Jesus iterates his identification with the God of Sinai; and (b) by paralleling I am the LORD and As I have loved you, Jesus takes the focus off the solely peer criterion of human to human and raises the stakes by expanding our model to include the implicit criterion of God’s love for each of us to my love for each person I meet. This takes the rather dicey touchstone of how I love myself, which can vary from total affection to total disgust, and stabilizes that mercurial standard of self by adding the unwavering, unchanging, ever present love of God. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Rom 8:38-39]

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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