We read in the scriptures many hard things, but one thing we read tends to be thought of and looked at as though it only applies to certain people and certain situations. It is in chapter 15 of the Gospel of John we come across this passage:
9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
Christ Demonstrates The Greatest Act Of Love
Some may read this and think this is only about Jesus himself and His perfect and merciful plan to lay down His life for us as a propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2) in order to justify us and reconcile us to God the Father (Romans 5:9-10) and present us as holy and blameless through the imputation of His perfect righteousness (Colossians 1:21-22).
Christian Martyrs Have Demonstrated The Greatest Act Of Love
Others may take this passage a little further by recognizing those called to be martyrs in the faith. Those who died to take the gospel to the far reaches of the globe, to hostile lands, to those without hope, and die on the battlefield of evangelism. Or even those throughout the centuries who sacrificed their lives to preserve and spread the knowledge of God’s holy word through Bible translation. Throughout history and still today, many give their lives for the gospel and no doubt they are laying down their lives for another and are demonstrating the greatest of love.
But, do these verses only apply to those called to die a martyr’s death in the way we think of it or do they apply to every Christian believer? I argue that we are all called to lay down or lives in this way. We are all called to pick up that cross, which is a symbol of a sacrificial death, and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24). What does that look like for the rest of us? The ones who aren’t being burned to death, shot down, stabbed, or hung on a cross for our faith. How do we lay down our lives for another and demonstrate this great love?
Obedience To God Is A Demonstration Of The Greatest Love
We have an opportunity to demonstrate this greatest act of love for God. We read in Romans 12:1 where the Apostle Paul says to all believers “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” for as 1 Corinthians 1:20 tells us “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
This sacrifice for God means giving up a worldly life and our fleshly desires for a life of obedience to God. A pursuit of righteousness and holiness, not for the purpose of earning our salvation but rather because of the salvation we have received. The irony of becoming a Christian is this command to turn away from and follow actually becomes our desire because of becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) with a new heart (Ezekial 36:26).
Does this passage go further though? Does it have any application to laying down our lives in another way for another people other than Christ or martyrdom of behalf of the gospel? I think it does.
We Demonstrate This Greatest Act Of Of Love Through Our Willingness To Protect
The possibility of laying down our lives to protect others is another we make this sacrifice. As a husband and father I can tell you that I would die to protect my family from a harmful threat. And like me, my wife would give up her life to protect her children in a heartbeat. We are not special in this way, most any husband, father, and mother would do the same. That is because of love, the greatest of loves, a love that would lay down their life for another.
For most, especially in a first world context, this may never come to pass. There is a great possibility you never be called to lay down your life in this way for those you love in modern America. However, there may be an even further application of this passage in which we are called to “lay down our lives” and that is in the context of caring for those we love.
We Demonstrate This Greatest Act Of Love Through Our Sacrifice Of Self For Others
How often in my own life I have felt as though I am working myself to death, giving up much of myself to the things I don’t want to do and sacrificing those things I would rather do in order to care for those I love. It’s easy to grow bitter when you see it as drudgery when giving so much of yourself, but when you look at it through the lens of scripture, you can see it for what it can be, a blessed opportunity to demonstrate the greatest of love.
The truth is we all have a wonderful opportunity to display the greatest act of love that can ever be shown. To lay down our lives for another in one form or another. To pick up our cross and follow Jesus, to be somewhat like him is a great honor. Let us wear this badge of honor well. I Pray Lord Help Me.
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