Sunday, March 16, 2014

Greatest love? Laying down your life for your friend... (John 15:12-17)

"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. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another."
(John 15:12-17; ESV)
Yesterday we had a rich time looking at God's word, in preparation for small group bible studies at an upcoming camp. Looking together at John 15:1-17, one of the people shared about how this was a new and striking thought, that we are not just servants of Jesus, but also friends of Jesus. And we pondered then about how that changes things, if we think of ourselves as Jesus' friends?

As Jesus is about to go and die for his friends, he tells the disciples, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" immediately followed by "You are my friends if you do what I command you." At one level, we can understand this in helping us answer the question, "Who are the people that Jesus dies for, who are his friends?" They are the ones who do what he says, they are the ones who love one another. So Christians should show love to one another, and that's how they show themselves to be Christ's disciples, and Jesus' friends.

But then Jesus also said to love one another "as I have loved you". How did Jesus love? He died for his friends. Are the other disciples my friends too? Am I ready to lay down my life for them? Or even more to the point, is Jesus my friend? Am I ready to lay down my life for my friend Jesus? As Jesus spoke these words to his friends, he knew not only that he was going to die soon for them, but he also knew that it wouldn't be long before most (perhaps not John), would also have to die for him (cf John 15:18-21). And certainly all would suffer for him, at the hands of others, for the sake of Christ, and Christ's body, the church.

Now we should well come to the point where we also are ready to say, "Yes, I will lay down my life for my friend Jesus". But perhaps (for some of us) we may take comfort in the fact that not many of us have to physically die for Jesus' sake, or even barely suffer physically, and will probably just die of old age. Putting our life on the line for Jesus isn't really an everyday thing for many of us. Hmm. Or maybe it is.

The thought occurred to us yesterday, maybe dying for Jesus is an every day thing. What if Jesus also means that dying for him means dying to self and doing what Jesus commands? What if we should look at obedience from a different perspective, not just as master and servant, but also from the perspective of being Jesus' friend. Are we ready to die to self, putting away our own desires and dreams, or our own pleasures and passions, because we love our friend, Jesus? Will we love one another, because we are ready to die to self out of our great love for our friend Jesus, who died for us?

A servant may die for his master because he has to. But he may not want to. A friend wants to die for the friend he loves. Do I want to die to self every day, because I love my friend Jesus? How great is my love for Jesus?

This simple song by Robin Mark is one of my favourites:
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.
For it's only in Your will that I am free,
For it's only in Your will that I am free,
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.

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