“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
Where is the newness to which Jesus refers? It lies in the fact that he is not content with repeating what had already been requested in the Old Testament and which we also read in the other Gospels: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
In the ancient precept the standard criterion was based on man (“as yourself”), whereas in the precept to which John refers, Jesus presents his own Person as the reason for and norm of our love: “as I have loved you.”
It is in this way that love becomes truly Christian: both in the sense that it must be directed to all without distinction, and above all since it must be carried through to its extreme consequences, having no other bounds than being boundless.
Those words of Jesus, “As I have loved you” simultaneously invite and disturb us; they are a Christological goal that can appear unattainable, but at the same time they are an incentive that does not allow us to ensconce ourselves in what we have been able to achieve. It does not allow us to be content with what we are but spurs us to keep advancing towards this goal.
Benedict XVI from The Apostles
The absurdity, the impossibility and the boundlessness of this Christian conception of love (agape) is disturbing.
We want something more sensible.
But what we want and what we need are two different things.
One aspect of this absurdity is the way in which love drives confronts the injustices that many civilisations simply take for granted. Slavery, apartheid, racism, discrimination and all forms of exploitation are quite natural. Power seeks to extend itself – how else could it be power. The self seeks to look after itself – how could it do otherwise.
Yet love does challenge injustice – love denies that these natural inequalities must simply be accepted – love is always seeking for a new Jerusalem, even amidst the ruins, confusions and complexities of the present.