there is no greater love than this.

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“Greater love has no man than this; to lay one’s
life down for one’s friends. You are my friends if
you do what I command. I no longer call you
servants, because a servant does not know his
master’s business. Instead, I have called you
friends, for everything that I learned from my
Father I have made known to you” (verses 13-15)
. These words follow the great commandment of
Jesus, “Love each other as I have loved
you” (verse 12).
These words never fail to challenge us. They
cause our hearts to soar with the realization of
God’s love for us, but we are also painfully aware
of how far short we often fall in our obedience to
this divine commandment of love. It has always
been true. Our minds and our hearts clearly
understand and desire to love in this way. But our
wills? Ah, therein lies the rub.
We have been made in perfect freedom. This will
never change. This freedom is the image of God
that we are made in. But our struggle is to use
our freedom properly, both to recognize what is
really good and what is really evil and to make
the right choices, then to carry them out, no
matter what the cost to us may be. It is in this
knowledge, and in our humble submission to the
will of God, that we struggle to live in the likeness
of God, to be like him in our love for one another.
We are challenged to do this in many different
ways. Do we defend a friend against the gossip
and false accusations of others, even if it may
mean that we might lose a job, or a the false
respect of others? Do we stand up for what is
right, even when most of those around us are
supporting something that is morally wrong? Are
we willing to risk our reputations, our security,
even a friend, in order to remain true to the will of
We are to keep this ideal of divine love before us
at all times. Jesus does not ask us to do the
impossible here. This ideal love is not an
unreachable fiction. It is a reality, a reality to be
yearned for and to be struggled for in the nobility
of our God-given humanity. It is that for which
God made us. Jesus is simply calling us to
ourselves, to our truest nature. He is challenging
us to know who we really are, that is, beloved
children of the Father, made in his image and
likeness. But we must know ourselves as sinners
in need of God’s grace and forgiveness too. He
knows the world may hate us for loving in the
manner that he calls us to, and he knows how
difficult that is for us, but he reminds us too, that
it hated him first. And he showed us how to meet
that hate by laying down his own life for his
friends, indeed for all humanity. But love demands
a relationship, a giving of the self to the other. He
tells us that in order to be his friends, we must
obey his commandment, this commandment of
love in the same way as he did. And every day we
are called upon, especially by the times we are
living in now, to turn away from hate and to love
one another, and to sacrifice for one another, in a
myriad of ways, even if that means that we must
lay down our lives for one another in some way.
Lord, Hate seems to be everywhere these days.
The world is desperate for Christians who really
do honor your commandment to love one another
as you have loved us, who are willing to sacrifice
everything, to show the power of your love to
redeem even long histories of hate. We pray that
you give us the grace of true humility and of true
courage so that we may live your commandment
of love more openly and more truthfully each day.
We pray in your name, Jesus. Amen!