During His time with the disciples just before His crucifixion, Jesus warned, “Some of you will be rejected, some will be imprisoned, some will be killed. And all of you will be persecuted” (see John 16:2). What a send-off message!
Yet, at the same time, Jesus gave them a word of direction about how to reach their generation after He was gone. This direction had nothing to do with methods for evangelism. Jesus had already told the disciples they were to go into all the world preaching the gospel, and it was clear that they would need the power of the Holy Ghost to do that.
Jesus told them plainly: “If you obey this new commandment, all men will know who you are. And they’ll know exactly where you stand. They may hate you, call you fanatics, and turn you out of their synagogues, but they will know you are Mine.”
Here is what Jesus told His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34, my italics). This is not an option; it is Jesus’ commandment. And it is where every evangelistic effort must begin.
You see, Scripture makes clear that we are to feed the poor, and the church will always do so faithfully. We are to do many good works through which we preach Christ boldly. But to penetrate the “gross darkness,” we need to lay hold of this new commandment from Jesus. Christ explains: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (13:35, my italics).
According to Jesus, only this particular love — a love for fellow believers — will gain the attention of a lost generation. It is the same kind of self-denying, sacrificial love that Jesus shows to each of us. And such love for our kin in Christ cannot be accomplished in word alone, but must be in deed.