“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NIV (New International Version)
I’m going to guess that almost everyone has heard this verse before, or some variation of it, whether you identify yourself as a Christian or not. It’s a verse that is typically taken very literally and it moves us emotionally to feel and believe that the ultimate display of love is to die for someone else. That’s how I grew up understanding it anyway and that interpretation was certainly reinforced during a 20-year military career.
Am I the only one that sees it that way? Are we supposed to look at it only in that extreme way? Or is it possible that we can also look at it in simpler terms?
My purpose for this blog is not to try and prove that any particular viewpoint about this verse is “right or wrong”. I’m not a theologian and I certainly don’t have the right to tell anyone else what to think. Most importantly, I do not diminish what Jesus Christ did for us on the Cross or what any service member / first responder has ever done in their service to our country and communities.
I’m simply curious about the possibility of a different perspective on this and if a different perspective could help lead us to a greater love for each other.
When we choose to think about this verse and other things in extremes, we tend to think and believe that we can only make a difference by doing something big, or difficult, or ultimately final.
A Different Perspective:
What could life and love be like if we choose to think about this verse and other things in a much smaller and simpler way?
- What if we choose to put our phones down or turn off the TV when our children or spouses want to sit with us and be held?
- What if we choose to change our plans when a family member or friend calls with an urgent need?
- What if we choose to stop what we’re doing and really pray for someone when they ask for prayer, instead of just saying “I’ll pray for you”?
- What if we choose to really listen to someone else so they feel like they’ve been heard and appreciated?
- What if we choose to leave our job or ministry when our family needs us more?
I’ve come to believe that “laying down one’s life” can mean dying for someone else (the extreme) and it can also simply mean giving your full attention to someone else in their time of need. It’s taken me a long time to see this simpler perspective. The examples I listed above are actually from my own life and struggles.
The cool thing about this simpler perspective, every time I have chosen to “lay my life down” for someone else I have received “greater love” than I gave.
What do you think of when you read this verse? What do you believe? If this blog has made you think, or if you want to think about things like this more, join us at The Journey Training.