““I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.” (John 13:34 HCSB)
The English language is a little problematic with this verse because it doesn’t have enough ways to say “new.” The Greeks had a couple of ways to say new. If they wanted to say new in regards to time—such as, “we have a new baby,” they would use the word neos. This means that the happy couple has a brand new, different, baby. They have not taken an old baby into the shop to get it rebuilt. This is a new and different baby.
The second kind of “new” was the word kainos [καινός for Greek studs]. This was a new of quality. When Jesus says “a new command” it is this kind of “new” that he is talking about. He did not mean new as in “never before seen or experienced,” because the command to love was not new in that sense. He meant new in the sense of quality, or in contrast to the old and worn out. Jesus had ushered in a new way of understanding God. No longer was God set apart from humanity. God the Son had introduced the age of Immanuel (God-with-us). How does God show compassion? We need only look at Jesus. How does God comfort? See Jesus. How does God love? Jesus here introduces the new-in-quality kind of love. We are, from this point forward, to love like Jesus loved.
This command is so important that Jesus sets it up as one of the markers of being his follower. All people will know that we follow Jesus when we love people as he loved people. It is a difficult standard, indeed an impossible standard apart from God the Spirit living within us.
Fortunately, God the Father planned for everything.