“Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”
I am a father and a grandfather. I like to think that I would readily lay down my life to save my child or grandchild if necessary. I’m sure other parents and grandparents would do the same. But am I willing to die for a friend?
I can think of some very good friends who are a treat to be with. But I can’t think of one that I would readily die for. That would take a level of love beyond what I have attained.
It would be rare, as Romans 5 says, for a person to give up their life for someone who is good—not to mention one who is not.
And yet “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And “while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.” Jesus’ self-sacrifice was the ultimate demonstration of love for others. He called his disciples friends, and he has shown all of us that he is the best of friends.
Given the difficulty of Jesus’ sacrifice, I can understand why Reinhold Niebuhr called such love “the impossible possibility.” Only in Christ, the Son of God, who emptied himself to come and die in our place, is such love possible. And only through Christ can we even come close to living out the possibility of such love.
Lord Jesus, I often feel confused or hurt because of friends—and even worse because of enemies. But you are the best of friends. Give me your love at the center of my being. Help me to be like you. Amen.
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