Ought to Lay Down Our Lives

April 17, 2011

While the Jews celebrate the Feast of Passover year after year in accordance with God’s commands, the ultimate Passover happened when Jesus died on the cross. It was then that “death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). To us who believe, it meant our translation from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Col. 1:13). This ultimate Passover is the epitome of God’s love and John presented it beautifully when he said, “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” (1 John 3:16). Indeed, the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect example of God’s love for us. We were not deserving of his love because of our sins, but “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

There is no better way to demonstrate our love than to lay down our lives. Jesus emphasized this when he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). This process of laying down his life was reiterated by Jesus many times. On one occasion he said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep” (John 10:11-13). While the services of hirelings are motivated by the benefits they get from the flock, Jesus’ was motivated by pure love for the flock. He was willing to sacrifice his own life for the sake of his sheep.

But how can we lay down our lives for others? Do we have to risk our lives to be able to say that we have laid down our lives for our friends? The apostle John gave a practical way of laying down our lives when he said, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17). Helping others and showing kindness to them is a form of laying down our lives. Our tendency is to be selfish and self-centered, but if we go beyond ourselves and reach out to others, it is a sacrifice that pleases the Lord. Let us not be like the young rich ruler that came to Jesus, asking, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” While he intimated that he wanted to enter heaven, he was not willing to lay down his life for others. He sadly left the presence of Jesus when he was told, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matt. 19:21). He would rather keep his possession and be denied the opportunity to enter heaven than laying down his life for the poor.

When times are good, we tend to be very bold concerning our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are unashamed and unafraid. By our reading of Scriptures, we know that we should never deny Jesus because he said, “Whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). In our mind, we know this and this is what we proclaim. However, when faced with real threats, we tend to become like the apostle Peter. While he promised Jesus, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you”, he actually disowned him three times, just as Jesus told him. His last denial was so vehement that he even called down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” (Matt. 26:74). Indeed, Peter’s sudden change of heart was due to his unwillingness to lay down his life for the Lord Jesus Christ. It appeared that it was just natural for Peter to make excuses without any qualms. He did not find it hard to make those denials and never occurred to him that he was doing a grave sin until the Lord turned and looked straight at him. Then Peter remembered the words the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times” (Luke 22:61). Friends, let us uphold our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us not deny him by our actions and words. Let us be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers, just as Jesus laid down his life for us. Hallelujah!