“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13
As humans, we think that if we put our very lives on the line for someone, we are fulfilling this scripture. For example, police officers, paramedics, and fire fighters who are the first to rush into a dangerous situation to save the lives of complete strangers at the risk of, and often the cost of, their own; doctors and nurses who expose themselves to potentially deadly diseases in order to care for the sick and the dying; parents who will sacrifice life or limb to protect the life of their child; or the person who will sacrifice their life for what is right, just because it is right.
So is it true that the above have fulfilled the intent of John 15:13? Yes, I believe so; however, there is more to laying down one’s life than just being willing to die for someone. While a noble act, what about giving, sacrificing in your life for someone? First John 3:16-18 tells us, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? … let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
In order to become the sacrifice necessary to save mankind from eternal death, Jesus had to sacrifice everything. He chose to be a man, to bear not only his physical weaknesses, but the weaknesses of his human nature (albeit without sin). He gave up His heavenly home and while on the cross, He was separated from the Father because of the sin of the world He carried. He left the love and praise of the heavenly angels and came to earth to live in poverty, tempted, scorned and rejected by the very ones He came to save. He lived a life that would be the example that man should follow so that he could develop the character needed to reach heaven. He showed man how to love even those who did not love Him. And then, He died for them.
If we are truly to fulfill the intent of the scripture to lay down one’s life, we must be willing to sacrifice everything: our property, our possessions, our wealth, our plans, our time, and yes, perhaps even our lives. The world groans as it suffers the painful burden of sin’s effects and consequences and the people of the world groan in their hearts, even if they aren’t aware of it, for lack of the one thing that could relieve their cares, fears, sorrows, and burdens – Jesus Christ. And how can they know Him, if they are never told, never shown? We must sacrifice our lives to Him so that He then can give us the love that makes it possible for us to sacrifice our lives for them.
Dear Lord, let it not be said of us: “ ‘For I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me,’ ” but rather “ ‘inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these, … you did it to Me.’ ”
(Matthew 25:42, 43 last part, 40).
[All emphasis supplied.]