“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
Happy Memorial Day! On the last Monday of each May, the United States celebrates all men and women who have died while serving in the US military. These men and women have given their lives to stand for something that is important to them, something they felt was worth fighting for.
In John 15:13, we find the well-known quote from Jesus about laying down your life for your friends. While the saying in itself has some beautiful sentiment to it, as with all biblical exegesis, context is key to understand the full meaning of the text.
In context with the preceding and following verses, the passage reads:
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, 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.” (John 15:12-17)
Jesus equates this “greater love” to the sacrificial love He displayed on the cross; and His love had a singular purpose– to redeem us from sin and reunite us with God. While physically laying down our lives for someone can be honorable, it is not always done for God-honoring purposes. We need only to look back at the atrocities of unethical wars, suicide bombers, terrorist acts and the like, to see that people will often give their own lives to defend people or ideals that are completely against God’s will.
As you read through verses 12-17, you’ll see that the friends of God are those who are obedient to His Word, and that the true love He speaks of means living sacrificially towards others for the sake of the gospel, leading them to God as we bear His spiritual fruit in our lives.
It may be rare when God calls one to physically die for someone else, but as I mentioned yesterday, Jesus has already called for us to die to ourselves daily, take up our cross, and follow Him. Death is a metaphor for giving up our own life and desires for the cause of Christ, and specifically in the case of John 15:13, for the benefit of others that they may be lead to redemption and salvation in Christ. Love one another just as He loved us (Mat. 20:28, Acts 20:24).
As those of us in the United States celebrate Memorial Day today, let us remember those men and women who gave their lives for our country. But more importantly, as Christians and friends of God, let us remember that He calls us to lay down our own lives that others may find eternal life through the gospel of Jesus Christ.