May 24, 2021
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, challenged them to follow him as he followed the example of Christ. In the verse above, we see Jesus calling his disciples his friends. And that got me thinking.
What kind of a friend was Jesus?
I often think of Jesus as a model of holiness, wisdom, and leadership. I think of him as my savior. And clearly, his crucifixion was a tremendous gift and sacrifice for the world. But I don’t know that I’ve thought about him as a model of friendship the same way I have an opportunity to be a friend. I tend to assume he was too important or too preoccupied for something as seemingly mundane as friendship. I imagine him arguing with the Pharisees, healing the sick, teaching the crowds – big things. Not small things like joking and laughter. Not ordinary things like sitting around the fire reminiscing. Still, he lived with his apostles for years. They did everything together. Small, ordinary things like eating, walking, talking, and sleeping. In those contexts, Jesus absolutely lived in the friendship opportunities you and I do.
Imagining Jesus in these contexts adds another layer to his words from John chapter 15. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It’s easy to read the big implications of that simple verse, because just a few chapters later, Jesus is on the cross. But a few chapters before this big statement, we see Jesus on his knees, washing his disciples’ feet. This was the Jesus they knew. In light of that, how do you think they interpreted his words about sacrifice and love?
I expect they heard a call to the daily surrender and death you and I experience. Caring for children. Visiting the sick. Making a meal for a new mom and dad. Helping a friend move. Pitching in on a work project. Helping someone study. These daily deaths are as much a part of Jesus’s command as the dramatic call to missions, social justice, extraordinary generosity, or a life devoted to ministry.
While some of us might have the opportunity to make huge sacrifices for our friends, every single one of us has the choice to accept small deaths of our desires, plans, boundaries, and convenience in order to be a friend. I can say with tremendous confidence you will have multiple opportunities this very day! When an opportunity arises, remember Jesus’s words to lay down your life.