These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 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.
As we mentioned a couple of days ago, the words in chapters 14–16 of John are the last of Jesus’ instructions to the disciples before His arrest and crucifixion and are therefore of extreme importance. Because of their placement within mere hours of the death of Christ, we often assume that the “lay down” refers to dying for one’s friends. This is indeed true, as Jesus was about to demonstrate, and it is also true as proven in the actions of the martyrs throughout the centuries.
But the meaning is broader than that. In the Greek text, the words lay down have the additional meaning of “lay aside.” This is pictured for us in the very coming of Jesus, as He both laid aside His glory, though never His deity, and laid down His life for His friends. This is His commandment to us: that we love one another like He loves us, and there is no greater love than a love that gives. This is the very heart of our walk of faith and communication of truth to the world.
Back in John 13:35, Jesus said the world would know we are His disciples by our love for one another. Now, here in chapter 15, He says what that love will look like. It’s a laying aside and, for some, even a laying down of their lives.
Laying down our lives is self-explanatory, but laying aside our lives requires a little explanation. Though there are many manifestations of how we might lay aside our lives in love for one another, one simple heading could be a banner over them all: servanthood. We are called to lay aside our time, our resources, and our talents for the sake of encouraging and promoting others. This is the life of love we are called to. It’s a life contrary to that of the world. It’s a life of seeking exaltation through humility; it’s a life of not seeking our own but seeking the good and blessings of another.
Not an easy thing, to be sure, and it is also important to remember this is not at the expense of our own families. Rather, it is a practice much like we do within our families. For example, early in our married life, Teri and I sometimes willingly went without certain things in order to stretch our resources and provide for our children’s needs. There was no begrudging attitude in this; it was natural, loving, wonderful, and even a blessing. This is the mind-set the Lord is urging us to take into the larger family of Christ.
Take what comes naturally and apply it to those who are Christ’s friends—the church, other believers. Love doesn’t get any greater than this, according to Jesus Himself.
Excerpt from “Body Builders” now available on Amazon.