“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:12-13 ESV
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
John 10:11,17-18 ESV
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
1 John 3:16-17 ESV
“Lie” or “Lay.” The struggle to remember the difference is real for many. In short, “to lie” is to recline. When I lie down, I am not doing it to something; I am on something. For example, I am lying on the couch as I write this. “To lay” is to place. You are physically placing something somewhere. You are doing it to something. For instance, I lay the book on the desk (I am taking the book and placing it on the desk).
Why the grammar lesson? Well, when Jesus says that no greater love has someone than to lay down his life, He is reminding us that it is our life that we must place, and we must be purposeful in doing so. When we lay down our life, we are not simply just lying down on the ground and letting people walk all over us. We are not simply at rest either; we are actively placing. We are, as Jesus says, doing it of our own accord. We can choose to lay it down, and we can choose to take it up.
Laying our lives down for the sake of the Gospel is a daily, if not moment by moment, choice we must make. Do we continually push our agenda, or do we humbly submit to what God would have us do? Do we put our interests above all else, or do we put the well-being of others above our own? Do we lay down our selfishness and pride, or do we grasp them with clenched fists, refusing to give an ounce of anything to anyone but ourselves.
To love as Jesus loved requires purposeful action–purposefully living our lives with the “not my will but Thy will be done” mentality. No, laying our lives down does not necessarily mean that we will be physically martyred, although that might happen to some of us one day. It does mean, however, that we are willing to let go of ourselves for the sake of the Gospel. It does mean that we are willing to decrease in order for God to increase (John 3:30). Sometimes laying our lives down requires keeping our mouth shut when we really want to speak. Other times it means speaking when we would rather keep our mouths shut. Sometimes laying our lives down calls us off the couch and out of our comfort zones. Other times it commands us to take a seat for a little while. How we lay our lives down for the sake of the Gospel will differ from person to person and from situation to situation, but the key for all of us who desire to lay our lives down is this: love. Yes, it is following Jesus’ command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39 ESV).
Remember today that God’s perfect love casts out fear, even the fear of letting go. So join me in choosing to lay our lives down for the sake of the Gospel. Let’s choose life. Let’s choose love. Let’s choose to follow in His steps. Let us together lay ourselves down knowing not only has Jesus called us His friends but also “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13-14).
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:10 ESV