“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
We talk a lot about love. It’s the theme of countless movies, books and songs. Our social media newsfeeds are full of it. We’ve got an entire holiday to celebrate it after all.
No, I’m not talking about Valentine’s Day … I’m talking about Easter.
Sure, Valentine’s Day has chocolate and silk boxers adorned with hearts and red lips. And yes, people are encouraged to send cards or valentines to people in their lives, reminding them that they are loved. Those are all good things, especially the chocolate. But those things don’t embody love.
Over 2,000 years ago, there was a man who was also God and because He was God He knew that man needed to be reconciled to God. But because we are man (or mankind) and not God (as much as some of us think we are), we needed God to do something that we could not do for ourselves. So, God sent His Son, His only Son, Jesus, to Earth to live and ultimately die.
While He lived, He showed people God. Not in picture or in the clouds, but through the way He lived His life and loved those around Him. His love was and continues to be revolutionary. Sinners were drawn to Him. Religious people couldn’t figure Him out. Sick people were made well by Him and dead people were raised to life. Let us not forget, He also picked 12 men who were a little more than “rough around the edges” to live life with Him and who got their own private teachings and lessons about God the Father.
Jesus wasn’t called to just live though. He was sent to die. In His death, we would be given life and life everlasting, which was the plan all along. His death was not the end of the story though, because three days later He rose again in victory over death.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting!”
The Gospel message of Jesus Christ is that of love. Jesus was sent to earth because of love. Jesus lived a sinless 33 years (when I can’t go 33 minutes) because of love. Jesus endured beatings, tauntings, name calling, and crucifixion because of love. Jesus descended to hell because of love. And He rose again because of love. It seems redundant, I get it, but I do that to remind all of us that everything Jesus did was out of His love for us.
If the Gospel is love, then we, too, are called to live our lives with the purpose of loving others. Or in the words of the apostle John, to lay down our lives for one another. It’s much easier to hear about Jesus laying down His life for us. He did all the hard work and we get the benefit of it. Score! It’s much more difficult to hear about what I have to do and put it into practice.
Laying down one’s life sounds hard and messy and time consuming.
It is all of those things and more. It means I have to think of others FIRST and not the “after me” kind of first. It means I need to speak words of life and encouragement to someone I’ve been secretly disliking because they cause my insecurities to rise up. It means giving of my most precious commodity, my time, and not looking at my phone (or watch, if you still have one of those) while I do. It means listening without thinking of a pithy response. Just listening.
This all seems so elementary or Sunday school-esque, but I feel like it’s something I need to continually remind myself of because I’m prone to think of only myself. I’d like to blame singleness on my selfishness, but that’s only a sly cover. I mean, Mother Teresa didn’t use singleness as a crutch, but chose the celibate life so she could do more. It’s obvious I’m (and my hormones are) not Mother Teresa.
What Mother Teresa, Jesus, and Mom (and many other Christians) all have in common is that they loved in word and deed. They showed how kindness is love in action. Mother Teresa by feeding the thousands. Jesus by dying on a cross. And my mom by putting up with my crap all these years. Each of those actions done because of love.
This Easter season may you be reminded that God loves you passionately and that there was nothing He wouldn’t do to show you that. In the same way, may you show the love of God to all you meet by putting them before yourself.