If you follow Food Shelf Friday on Facebook, then you may have seen this week’s scripture image featuring John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that to lay down one’s life for his friends.” This is a beautiful picture of what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross. It is also frequently used to honor the memory of heroes who sacrificed their lives in military service or in an effort to save others, like firemen and police who die in the line of duty. But I think there is more here, a message not just about the dead, but for the living.
Matthew 16:24-26 (also found in Luke 9, and Mark 8) – Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Galatians 2:20 – 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.
Galatians 5:24 – Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Death does not always mean the end of physical life. Repeatedly the Bible calls us to die to self, to willingly lay down what we want in favor of what God wants. We are called to deny ourselves, to stop striving to gain the whole world at the cost of our souls, and to keep our eyes on God’s kingdom over our own.
The flesh is strong. Very strong. I’m hungry, tired, weak, and selfish every day. And I find ways to appease myself every day. I eat junk food because it makes me happy and I “deserve” it. I rest when I should be busy (rest is not bad, you have to take care of yourself, but let’s face it, laziness is also real and I know most of us cross that line often). I fail to resist temptation. I think about myself and my rights first. This is what humans do. We take care of our own in as much comfort as we can afford, and then we think of others with our leftovers and cast-offs. It’s human nature.
But God’s nature is different. His eyes are on the big picture, a global scale that transcends time. Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us of this: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
God calls us to resist our own nature and take on his priorities. We are called to willingly sacrifice our rights, our comforts, and our sense of control for the ultimate goal of getting the gospel message to the people around us. We have to die to our selfish desires, showing the kind of love that Jesus showed when he was crucified to pay the penalty for our sins. In this way we show the ultimate kind of love, laying down our lives for a friend.