If you hear someone reference the love chapter in the Bible most people think of 1 Corinthians 13. It tells us what love is and what it’s not, and it is used to paint a beautiful picture with words at wedding ceremonies and Valentine banquets.
But tucked away in the little book of 1 John is another passage about love that doesn’t get talked about quite as much. The love it describes isn’t the kind that makes the front of a Hallmark card.
1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (NIV)
We like talking about how Jesus laid down His life for us. It is the very core of the Gospel, and that gift takes us from death to life, from guilt to forgiveness, from being bound up in sin to walking in freedom. Jesus’ time on earth shows a pattern of love evidenced by sacrifice – the laying down of his time, privacy, comfort, title, power, and ultimately his life.
In John 10:18 Jesus says that He lays down His life of His own accord. He chose to do it. At every point in His life, and throughout his unjust trial, crucifixion and death, He could have chosen differently. He could have turned his back, walked away and made a decision to let His rights and comfort take precedence over the needs of humanity. But He didn’t.
The evidence of the depth of His love for us was seen in the literal laying down of His life on the cross. That kind of love changed everything.
1 John 3:16 says we ought to also lay down our lives for others. Here’s the thing though – Jesus is JESUS and we’re not. He’s the Savior of the world and His sacrifice has the power to redeem every life ever lived.
What does it even mean for us to lay down our lives? And what meaningful impact could this act possibly have? The answer is found at the beginning of the verse. “This is how we know what love is”. The evidence of God’s love for us is found in Jesus. It is the ultimate display of overwhelming, unsurpassable love, and once we experience it we have the privilege and the mission of sharing it with others.
When we love sacrificially with no expectation of repayment, it is evidence to the world that the love we received from the Father has taken up residence in us.
How does it show that? Because on our own we can never love consistently enough and genuinely enough to make any difference. In our own efforts, on our best days, we might muster up some good deeds, or even extravagant generosity, but it will always point back to us.
Every time Jesus laid down His life for others it was to point them to the Father. Sacrificial love that lays down our rights, our wants, our needs, our self-centeredness for the good of others can only come from God, and will point to God. When our world sees it, this is how they will know what love really is.
Julie has been traveling the world with her adventure-loving husband for 35+ years. They have two married daughters and their beautiful kids make up their Sensational Six who all joined the family within four years of each other through adoption, marriage, and birth. She spends her time as a licensed coach for women and a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) mentor because she is in her happy place when she is walking alongside women in their journey toward being who God designed and created them to be. You can find her at juliewesleycoaching.com.