"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." John 15:12-13
The Bible talks about how important it is for believers to lay down their lives for a friend -- but what does that mean?
The passage above conjures up images of jumping in front of an automobile or a subway car to save someone else -- or maybe throwing one's self in front of a bullet intended for another. But maybe these aren't what Jesus was talking about when He called us to model this special kind of love.
It might be that laying down our lives for a friend means listening, really listening to others, even when it is not convenient. Maybe it means helping someone who does not give us praise when we do it. Or maybe it means turning off a ball game to have a tea party with a child. It could mean giving up our favorite chili-cheeseburger to stay healthy for our spouse's sake, and for our future.
I believe it just might be easier to muster up a moment of nobility (as in throwing oneself in front of a bullet) than to lay down our lives for one another every day in small ways.
That begs the question: "How can I love like that? ... How can I do it? ... It is not like I've not tried. ... I have. And do. ... But I fail. I fail miserably. ... Just how am I to love this way?"
I think we can love this way because we have an example.
Jesus loved this way. ... He gave up the comfort, joy, and adoration of heaven to be with broken people and to become soiled by the dust of earth and the sin of humanity. He took the agony of pain that was not intended for him. He faced Calvary and, yet, continued to give Himself for others.
And He did this because he loves you and me.
We should be encouraged to bear the pain that uncaring people sometime inflict upon us when we reach out to them. When remarks stab us, when we suffer cruel rejection, when our acts of kindness and love result in hurt, we see Jesus.
If he did this for us, shouldn't we be able to do it for others?
So, again I ask you -- how can I love as Jesus loved me? Because even with the example Jesus sets before me, I find myself weak and unable to care for others as He does.
When the Scripture calls us to be or do that seems impossible, our problem is that we feel that it's all on us. We depend on our own willpower or discipline. We think being able to "do it ourselves" is what is required to make it happen.
Maybe it's because -- as Americans -- we come from a long line of rugged individuals who tamed a new continent and built a new republic from scratch. It sure seems that the last place we go when we cannot love sacrificially is for help.
Here's a secret I've learned through experiencing life in Christ (albeit a hard lesson I'm still trying to grasp): The whole walk of faith is one of reaching for help.
If we can't love as Jesus did, we need to ask him to reshape our very being; to make us new; to make us folks who love like he does.
Scripture says that King David asked the Lord to create a new and clean heart within him.
I submit to you that this truly is the pathway to loving like Jesus. Only he can create a loving heart in us.
Then perhaps we can love more like Him.