“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Jesus’ point in these verses is clear. He is calling on us to love one another. And, although this may seem obvious to us, it’s not as apparent as it seems.
I say this because we are naturally selfish. Our tendency is to look out, first and foremost, for ourselves. We are typically unwilling to give of ourselves, we’re typically unwilling to sacrifice, for the sake of others.
It seems that we are only willing to give if there is something to be gained by it. We’ll give if it curries favor with others, if it means that they will help us down the road. We’ll give if it gains for us respect and honor. We’ll give if there’s some sort of material reward for our labor. But to give with no thought of return is an oddity.
Jesus calls us to love one another. And, more than that, he gives us a standard of love. He calls on us to love one another as he’s loved us.
He goes on to say that the greatest love is a giving of the self. The greatest love is sacrificial in nature. The greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends.
Once again, these words of Jesus tie right in with our Easter celebration. As Jesus issues this command, our minds are turned to him and to his sacrifice. We’re reminded of the great love he’s shown us.
We’re reminded that he loved us so much, he was willing to die for us. We’re reminded that he died for us although we had nothing to offer in return. We’re reminded that he died for us while we were yet sinners, while we were yet his enemies.
As we read this, we may be thinking that it’s an impossible standard. And it’s true that, for sinful people like us, it is. We will never be able to love as Christ has loved on this side of eternity.
However, this command is a continual call to repentance. It’s a constant check on our sinful nature. It drives us to the cross that we might receive God’s forgiveness for the lack of love that we show.
It also moves us to seek God’s work in our heart. It moves us to pray that he’ll work in us and through us. And we can be assured that, as we turn from our sin, and as the Holy Spirit works within, God will use us to demonstrate his love to others. He’ll move us to lay down our life for others.