The Great Act of Love
What is the greatest act of love one person could show toward another? Jesus actually answered this question during His earthly ministry. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).” This action of love is the greatest one person could show to another because it demonstrates the supreme sacrifice. Imagine someone diving in front of a bullet for you. Think about the selflessness they showed in that moment whenever they gave their life knowing that yours was about to be taken. That is a truly deep love for another person!
When our minds think about this great act of love we are truly blown away by this example. My mind curiously wonders in another vein though. If someone loves another enough to lay their life down for them, then would that not impact how they live each day with that person? Loving another enough to die for them must mean that you love them enough to sacrifice for them in the present moment. To care for them, invest in them, give to them, encourage them, weep with them, and rejoice with them. This kind of love must of necessity lead you to not simply love another in the last moment of your life when you “take the bullet” but also love others over the course of your life.
Christ Our Pattern of Love
The Apostle John elaborates on this theme of love in his first epistle. There we read:
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” -1 John 3:16
John draws the application that because Christ laid down His life for us we must do the same for our brethren. This clues us into a couple of points. First, explicitly the teaching of the New Testament is that our role as Christians is to follow Christ as His disciples which includes how we love and serve others. We do not follow a mere fleeting feeling of love, rather the teaching and life of Christ show us how to love. Secondly, there is an intimate tie between understanding the love of Christ for us and our love of others. Once we comprehend the reality that Christ sacrificed Himself for us dying a torturous death, then everything about us is changed. It is a radical transformation brought to everything in our life including how we love and serve others. Yet, there is a further point still. If you and I are not willing to lay our life down daily in service to God and others, then why would we think that we would make the ultimate sacrifice of dying for another? You see, this transforming love of Christ compels us not only to lay down our physical lives, it calls upon us to give of ourselves every day for others. John makes an interesting point in the next two verses:
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. -1 John 3:17-18
This verse takes the love of Christ laying down His life for us that we are called to imitate and breaks it down on a more elementary level. Not only are we called to lay down our lives, we are called to love the brethren by giving to them as we see necessities arise. That reality evidences we do not merely love in talk, but in deed (practice) and truth. Putting it differently, the test of whether or not you love someone is not only about the heroic moment of “taking a bullet” but also about how you react on a smaller daily-life scale. Suppose there is a family in your local church who has recently undergone a major unforeseen medical expense that is devastating to them. They work hard, but they are young and not financially secure at this point. If you or I have the means to give to them, yet turn away the opportunity out of a hard and cold heart, then we are not following the love of Christ nor would physically lay our lives down for them as Christ did for us. My point, love is not merely one grand deed, but a way of life for us as believers that we must practice every single day laying ourselves down as Christ did for us!
What we see in the Lord Jesus Christ is not only a single act of love (the cross) but a life of love during each moment of His earthly ministry. He proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom, taught the masses God’s truth, healed the sick, raised the dead, opposed the Pharisees, and drove out those blaspheming the temple all driven by perfect love. He reveals to us what it means to love for God and love others. That is clear in the cross and it is evident throughout His life. It should be the same in our lives as well. Because of Christ’s love for us, we are now set free from our sin to love others. May we take that responsibility seriously not merely in one major action, but even in what may appear to be seemingly small ways each day.
Christian love shines through the seemingly “small” crevices of life. It is seen in the man who fixes something which is broken at the church house or in a wife and mother who cooks a meal for another family when their mother is sick. We see it in pastors who go to a young couple with marital issues trying to bring restoration and churches that give to their brethren in need while also reaching out to the lost by proclaiming the Gospel. Those fathers and mothers who sacrifice to raise their kids in the ways of Christ are also loving according to His commands and example. I pray that we each find small ways each day to show the love of our Lord. Whether it be sharing the Gospel or an act of kindness or perhaps an encouraging word to a brother, may we realize how much Christ has loved us and go out seeking to do the same!