We are commanded by the Word to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 Jn 3:16b), because Jesus did the same for us, and we should follow His footsteps. What does it mean to lay down one’s life? Does laying down one’s life mean dying like Jesus did? After all, the Bible refers to His death on the cross (sacrifice) as laying down His life. Repeatedly, Jesus Himself said, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11, 15a, 17, and 18). John also reminds us, “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 Jn 3:16a).
Laying down our lives for the brethren can be explained as our call to do for each other even when it hurts, when it is costly and time consuming, even when it is simply inconvenient. In short, it means going the extra mile for each other. It means putting the needs of the brethren ahead of our own. If Jesus had put his need of relief from pain, agony, and shame ahead of our eternal security, you and I will still be in our sins, without hope. Instead, He put our need for salvation and our need for reconciliation to God ahead of His own comfort.
Putting our need ahead of His own was the reason He did not call for legions of angels to fight on His behalf (Mt 26:53) when He was arrested, mistreated, and wrongfully condemned. The crowd sneered at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One” (Lk 23:35b). One of the two criminals, also crucified, hurled insults at Him as well: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us” (Lk 23:39)! Of course He could have saved Himself, but He didn’t for your sake and mine.
After all, He laid down His life on his own accord; He said, “I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (Jn 10:18a). He was determined to do whatever it took, and pay whatever it cost, to free us from sin, snatch us from hell, and restore our relationship with the Father.
God demonstrated His love for us by giving us His Son, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16). Christ demonstrated His love by laying down His life for us (1 Jn 3:16a). Likewise, although we could say “no” when we feel inconvenienced, we can prayerfully put each others' need first, following Jesus’ example. Whatever sacrifices we make, let us make willingly and cheerfully, because God loves a cheerful giver.
John emphasized the importance of not turning our backs on each other's needs;, illustrating it this way: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him” (1 Jn 3:17)? I believe our responsibilities toward one another go far beyond meeting material needs. We need to take time to listen to, to encourage, to build up and to bear one another’s burdens. Jesus showed us love in practical ways; let us do the same for one another, “Not with words and tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18).
by Pearl Nsiah-Kumi, RN, CRNC