“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” First John 3:16
There is a specific order of events that John describes. First: Jesus loves us. Second we love others. Without Jesus’ love our love for others will never happen. Our love for others flows out of Jesus’ love for us.
There is also a specific description of love: laying down your life for someone else. Jesus did this for you! He died for you. He wasn’t forced to go to the cross. He was not coerced or tricked into dying on your behalf. He didn’t do it completely out of obligation. He went to the cross and gave himself completely for you out of love.
Having been loved like that, you’re now ready to love others in a similar way. Very few of us will have the opportunity to actually die for someone else. We might imagine a war scene where a grenade drops into the middle of a fox hole and one of a platoon of soldiers dives on the grenade to shield his brothers. He gives his life. It’s the greatest act of sacrifice and love. Very few of us will have the chance to love in that way.
Few of us will even be able to risk ourselves in a large way. Some might offer to have a kidney removed and transplanted in a sick loved one. It’s risky, and it’s potentially going to take your life, but most will survive normally after such a loving gift.
More of us have the opportunity to lay down our lives in smaller ways. These loving actions take place every day in our neighborhoods; where we live, work, and play. You might be extremely tired at the end of the day, and your child is in need of some homework help or extra attention. By giving them that undivided attention when you’d rather be napping or watching your favorite TV show you’re giving a little of yourself and laying it down for them. Or, you might have the chance to love your spouse by doing a little extra cleaning around the house that they normally do. Maybe you’ll speak a good word to your boss about your co-worker knowing full well that they might get the promotion and you won’t. That’s laying down your life for the sake of someone else.
You can’t do these unless you’ve been loved first. John knows this and teaches it well: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
Dear Jesus, thank you for your love. Help me to love others. Amen.