“No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends. You are My friends if you keep on doing the things which I command you to do.”

// John 15:13-14

Jesus defines the kind of love expressed in John 15:13-14 as the ultimate sacrifice: this degree of love is so deep and vast that it gives no thought to dying for the sake of friends. This is agape love – the same kind of love which compelled Jesus to lay down His life for us. And it is this kind of selfless, sacrificial love that won our hearts, that made us into His friends.

If we honestly ask ourselves whether we would lay down our lives for our friends, the answer is likely very few, if any. As Paul said, some of us might lay down our lives for the person we see as good, but how many of us would do it for someone who denied or betrayed us? Those were Christ's friends, too – remember Peter and Judas? How many of us would die for someone who sinned against us, someone who repeatedly disobeyed or rejected us? That's what Jesus did for us.

This revelation should point our hearts towards a humble place of acceptance for the magnitude of love Jesus has for us. Seeing and accepting His love then puts our hearts in a place where we are empowered to live by the commands of Jesus. And His command is to lay down our lives for others, no matter what kind of person: a good friend or a betrayer.

The key here is that when we obey His commands out of love, Jesus considers us His friends. It is not in our trying harder to obey Jesus that we come into love, but it is in our grasping the magnitude of His love that drives our obedience. As we see the love that won our hearts, we will obey its nature – we will do what He does and lay down our lives out of love for another. The key is we do it from His love.

Love empowers us to obey Jesus – not self-discipline or our own will. We can show others our love for Christ, not because we must obey a book of rules, but because He first loved us. We can love others like He does, and showing ourselves true friends both to Him and to everyone we encounter.

// Josh Neuroth