Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Merit of Self-Sacrifice

In John 15:13 Jesus makes the following assertion, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."

Most of us have heard this before, or at least something similar. Very rarely do we pause to consider the validity of the statement. It seems…right. Right?

After all, when Hercules lays down his life for Megara, nobody questions the beauty of the profound gesture—everyone just cheers. When Jean Valjean puts his life in danger for the sake of his daughter’s lover, nobody chastises him for reckless behavior; they generally cry, overwhelmed by his selflessness. When American soldiers lay down their lives for their country, people are rightly sobered and awed.

But why is self-sacrifice the ultimate sign of love? Why must one extinguish his life flame to prove to another the depth of his love for that one? For that is what Jesus did—allowed Himself to be slaughtered by His own creation, all for the sake of love (John 3:16).

We are all commanded to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). The most extreme example of obedience to this command is to place your neighbor’s life above your own. Jesus’ self-sacrifice is beautiful because by subjecting Himself to the most agonizing physical and spiritual pain possible, He proved to the world that He is willing to give her EVERYTHING He has, even, in a sense, His life. He gave up His celestial comfort to live an incredibly lowly life, be ridiculed, be tortured, and ultimately die on a cross like a common criminal; He gave us all that He had to give. He couldn’t have done more. He let us destroy Him.

Now here is another thought. Jesus laid down His life for us, and according to His Word, we are supposed to emanate Him.

1 Peter 2:21 says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

And Matthew 16:25 promises, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

So maybe God’s message for all of us today is something like this:

Don’t be too prideful or fearful to lay down your life; when you do, be your self-sacrifice emotional, spiritual, mental, or physical, I, the Creator of the cosmos and your soul, will surely lift you.