John 13:33 “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus is speaking about the characteristics that His followers would manifest before the world. Let’s keep in mind that this manifestation of Christian character would come in the midst of first century Roman culture which, by all accounts, was marked by extreme self-interest, self-promotion, self-preservation, and the overriding goal of sensual pleasure. Roman citizens were distinguished by their commitment to self, first and foremost. Individualism saturated the world into which Christianity was introduced.

In this context, Jesus is relaying information of a crucial nature. He is telling the disciples something essential about how they should conduct themselves in the days to come. Although they could not imagine being without the Savior, He knew that this is precisely what would happen very soon. Therefore, Jesus concentrates on one particular characteristic by which His disciples will be made obvious to the world.

That one particular characteristic is given in verse 35: “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” How will followers of Jesus Christ be known in this world? What quality will they exhibit that will identify them as disciples of the Savior?

Love for one another is the primary evidence that we have been born again and are endeavoring to live in a manner that honors our Savior. In this matter of loving one another, we find our greatest challenges and are most frequent failures. When it comes to those with whom we interact on a regular basis, it is far more likely that they will get to know what we truly are and what kind of character we actually have. It is in those close relationships that the state of the heart becomes apparent. It is in those close relationships that the profession of the mouth is shown to be true or false.

Genuine love, love defined by the Word of God, is such a rare thing in this fallen world. Genuine love is not witnessed very often. Genuine love is self-sacrificial and gentle and patient and forgiving; that is not what we see in this world. Therefore, when a particular people exhibit genuine love for one another, they’re going to stand out and call attention to themselves and cause others to ask the question: Why are those people different? By that, all men will know that we are Christ’s disciples, if we have love for one another.

While there may be many markers of faith, there is one indispensable characteristic that identifies us as disciples of Jesus Christ—and that, once again, is our love for one another. The exhortation from Jesus should lead us to return to the Scriptures and hear again what love is, according to God. And we must be zealous to become the kind of people who are known for their love toward one another.