“The greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15:14).
The greatest love is to die for your friend. To die for someone is to give up everything you have for them. All future comforts, business successes, children (and future generations), all beloved relationships and of course life. It’s a huge sacrifice. Jesus commanded us to love each other. Each time I inconvenience myself a little in order to help a friend, I die a little, sacrifice a little, in order to love that friend. Jesus commands us to love each other in the same way He loves us. This means we should be willing even to make the ultimate sacrifice for our friends.
Now there’s a little matter about friendship. Jesus makes a distinction between a friend and a servant. Friends confide in one another. But a master will not share secrets with his servants. Jesus confided in the disciples in that He told them what the Father told Him. Later Jesus said that at some future time He would be able to tell them plainly about the Father without using parables. I assume his to mean when the Spirit of truth, the Counselor, would be given to guide them into all truth.
So then the greatest love seems to have two components: (1) the ultimate sacrifice and (2) trust. The first part, sacrifice, is crucial. It involves a choice to willingly forsake what you have in order to benefit someone. That person may be a friend, stranger or even an enemy (Matt 5:44). God teaches us to love sacrificially no matter who is in need, no matter whether we receive anything in return. In laying down our lives we should not expect thanks, compensation, relationship or friendship. To love sacrificially is to give up without expecting a return.
The second part of the greatest love is trust. When you trust a friend, you are wililng to share your innermost thoughts and feelings. Christ shared what was most precious: knowledge about the Father. But this trust is conditional. Christ said: “You are my friends if you obey me” (John 15:14). And He also said: “Don’t give the sacred to dogs. Don’t give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you” (Matt 7:6). So then perhaps the saying is true: trust is earned.
So then we can love strangers and enemies by making large sacrifices for them. This is a powerful love. Yet the greatest love is when we lay down our lives for our trusted friends. This kind of love has not only sacrifice but also relationship.
Lord, teach me how to deny myself and take up my cross and follow You. Give me the grace to so identify with You in Your death that I may be able to make sacrifices cheerfully in order to love my neighbors and even enemies. Also, please give me wisdom to know who to trust and confide in. Let me be like You and lay down my life for my friends. In doing so may I bring glory to Your name. Praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ who first loved us!