We all claim to know how to love but do we sacrifice enough to show that love? To emphasize the extent of sacrifice that we should show, Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). By this, the Lord Jesus laid down the standard of love that we should have for one another. True love demands that we lay down our lives not only to those who are dear to us but our friends in general. Laying down one’s life for a friend is not merely that one act of dying for a friend. Rather, it is the act of sacrificing daily for them. This is the kind of sacrifice Jesus was referring to when he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Sacrificial love is dying daily to our rights, desires and dreams. There is no better way to accomplish this than to die to ourselves in the manner that the apostle Paul did. He said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). When we die to ourselves, we can love as Jesus loved. We do not only love those who are lovable but even those who are unlovable. Love is not a feeling or an emotion. Love is experiential and an act of the will. We love because we decide to love, regardless of who the people are and whether or not they will love us back.
When God manifested his love for us, he did not demand that we straighten up or clean up our mess first. He loved us just as we were. The apostle Paul gave a good illustration of God’s love when he said, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7-8). This is the kind of love that God demands from us, where we love others unconditionally. This is not always easy to do because we have been accustomed to love in a selfish way. We tend to love and be good only to those who look good and are responsive to our love. And if they do not love us, we hate them.
Realizing that we have the wrong concept of love, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). The command to love is not actually new. We have been commanded to love even from the beginning. However, Jesus’ new command to love was not on the basis of what we already know as love, but based on his own kind of love – his love for us. As mentioned earlier, Jesus loved us sacrificially. In the same manner, we should now love one another sacrificially, even to the point of death. In his epistle, the apostle John made it clear that we should indeed love just as Jesus loves us. 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 and sisters” (1 John 3:16).
It is often hard to keep our relationship with one another because of things that would come to challenge it. Though we claim to love one another deeply, things might change depending on the circumstances that will come our way. However, true love is undisturbed by circumstances in the same manner that God’s love for us is constant. The apostle Paul described the steadfastness of God’s love this way: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). Similarly, nothing should separate us from one another since we have the love of God in us and we should love as Jesus loved us.
The sacrificial love that Jesus showed to us should serve as an example for us. We are told to “follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2). In our service, we need to wash one another’s feet, and in our love we must be willing to lay down our lives. These are the basics that Jesus wants us to do to show our love for him. As believers, we need to be willing to deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily and follow him. Indeed, there is no greater love than to lay down our lives for a friend. Praise the Lord!