"This is my command: Love each other." (John 15:17)

Jesus states this to his closest disciples in the midst of his confidential instructions to them after the last supper.

The Greek word ἀλλήλων (allēlōn) is being translated here to "each other," but its meaning according to the lexicon is "one another, reciprocally, mutually."

This means that Jesus was specifically asking his disciples to care for and love each other. Why is this important within his lecture at that moment?

Because of the tendency of people in the physical realm to squabble with each other. Practically any group of people in this world will have varying opinions and will disagree about how to apply things. This not only goes for territorial, political or community groups but also those groups amongst the various religions of the world.

Sectarians are fighting with each other

We find so much bickering between the world's different religions, and even within those religions. This is in fact why there are so many different religious institutions: Each religion or sect has resulted from disagreement within those who initially followed a common teacher and philosophy.

This is despite even instances where there are similar philosophies and even the same ancient teachers. Rather than focusing on their common philosophy and teachers, they focused on creating institutions that separate themselves from others.

Then we have those different religious groups that have followed different teachers over the centuries, and they squabble with those who have followed another teacher.

This is despite the fact that each of those teachers ultimately taught the same message - to love and serve the Supreme Being.

Instead of focusing on the commonalities of these teachings, these divergent groups have focused on technical differences related to cultural aspects or aspects related to particular times and circumstances that surrounded the particular teacher.

And upon these technical differences, they have established institutions that focus on political warfare with other institutions.

Sectarianism causes war

These sectarian disagreements have often broken out into bloody wars. We have seen so many wars fought between the different religious institutions over the centuries. And many of these wars have broken out since the time of Jesus - after he spoke the words of John 15:17.

This is the fighting and squabbling that Jesus was speaking to and trying to avoid amongst his students. He was trying to prevent future infighting between his followers.

We find other statements by Jesus asking his disciples to get along and love each other. This is not only because Jesus had seen controversy amongst his students, but he had seen infighting within the institutional temple community, and within groups of students of other teachers, including amongst those students of Jesus' teacher, John the Baptist.

All of this fighting simply takes our attention away from the teachings that Jesus was trying to pass on to his students. He wanted them to love each other and help each other pass on his message.

This doesn’t mean that we should blindly accept the teachings of someone who claims to represent Jesus, however. We still have to check those teachings out and be sure they are consistent with Jesus’ teachings. This Jesus showed us by example – as he did not blindly accept the teachings of institutional temple teachers of his time.

But he still loved them – illustrated by his saving the daughter of one of the institutional temple officials.

What does love actually mean? 

Many of us throw around the word "love" like it is part of a point system. The words "I love you" between couples or family members are often used as a marker. As if "love" is something that must be exchanged in order to belong to that clan or relationship.

That kind of "love" is not real love. It is business. It is conditional. A person who is saying "I love you" in order to put down a marker in the relationship is expecting something in return. That person may be offering their words as long as they are returned, but those same words will be withdrawn if not returned.

The love Jesus spoke of - ἀγαπάω (agapaō) - is not a marker or currency of exchange. It is not something to be traded or swapped to establish fairness.

Jesus is speaking of a love that only comes from a place of real love: the Supreme Being.

Real love can only be connected with the Supreme Being. Why? Because real love is a spiritual emotion. It does not come from the mind. It comes from the spiritual person. And the spiritual person is of the spiritual realm - separate from the physical body and the physical realm.

The spiritual person is connected with the Supreme Being. The spiritual person cannot exist without their relationship with the Supreme Being. The spiritual person may be a separate entity, but the spiritual person must have and embrace their relationship with the Supreme Person in order to embrace their own identity.

We might compare this to a baby. The baby cannot survive alone. The baby must be taken care of by the mother and father - or someone in those roles. The baby can't just go out and harvest their own food and build a house. A baby is by nature dependent.

Each of us is dependent

Each of us - our spiritual self - is also dependent. But we are dependent upon the Supreme Being. We cannot exist without Him. We might feel independent from Him now as we falsely identify ourselves with these temporary physical bodies - but these bodies are not ourselves. They are temporary shells. They are like our cars. We have sat down in the car of this body and we are driving it around for awhile.

And even though we might feel independent in these bodies, they are each dependent as well. They are dependent upon the environment around them. Our bodies are dependent upon being provided food, water, air and so on. If they are not taken care of, they will die. Therefore, these bodies are not independent.

Our true self is also not independent. But instead of needing physical food, water and air, our true self is dependent upon love. We each need love.

This is why each of us is constantly seeking love as we travel through these lifetimes. We seek love in the form of the approval of others. We seek love in the form of our family relationships. We seek love as we execute our jobs, our hobbies, our sports, our activities. This is why so many seek fame. We so badly want others to love us because this is what our spiritual selves need to survive.

But the love of other people in this physical world is typically conditional. As long as we "love" them back they express their so-called love for us. Or as long as we do our job. Or as long as we excel in the activity they appreciate. All these forms of love do not satisfy us because they are conditional, and this is why we continue to seek love even though we may have people in our lives who say they love us.

Even famous movie stars or rock stars - who are constantly surrounded by people who say they love them - continue to look for real love. They are looking for authentic love. So they find a mate and marry them, thinking this is real love. Then they find out later that this love was also conditional - and the relationship ends up in divorce, only to have that previous spouse who announced their "love" now announce they hate the ex.

Each of us is looking for unconditional love

This comes from the Supreme Being - our Best Friend and Companion, though we continue to ignore Him. The Supreme Being loves us regardless of who we are or where we've been. The Supreme Being loves us regardless of whether we love Him back or even if we ignore Him or deny His existence. He loves and cares for us regardless of whether we do "good" things or "bad" things.

And it is only when we are embracing His unconditional love, and living within that relationship of love, do we have the ability to reflect that love onto others. The only way we can really love others is when we don't need them to love us back. The only way we can really love others is when we don't need their approval. The only way we can really love others is when we are fulfilled by the Supreme Being's love for us.

This is why Jesus connected loving others with loving the Supreme Being. His connective statement has been translated to "like unto that" or "like it" among the different versions of the New Testament:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matt. 22:37-38)
The operator in Greek is ὅμοιος (homoios), which means "like, similar, resembling" according to the lexicon. This means that loving others is connected to loving the Supreme Being. Loving others is reflecting that love for the Supreme Being.

A person who loves the Supreme Being will automatically love others because loving God means knowing who God is, and knowing who God means knowing how much He loves us all, and that each of us is dependent upon Him. Each of us is His common children, and He loves each of us. So to love the Supreme Being yet not love His children would be impossible. The two are inseparable because of the unconditional love the Supreme Being has for each of us.

This is the kind of love that Jesus wanted his disciples to have for each other. He wanted them to embrace each other within their relationship with him the Supreme Being.

And this instruction can be expanded to each of us. Jesus may have been speaking directly to his disciples, but we can all apply this instruction. We can see each other not as members of different religious groups, different races or different countries. But we can see each other as brothers and sisters - all loved unconditionally by our Best Friend and Eternal Companion, the Supreme Being.