Sacrificial Love

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. St. John 15:9-13

These are the words of Jesus the Christ who is our example of true humanity. His words are comforting as they are challenging; they are subtle and yet they demand consciousness and seriousness as we treat with them. These are words that must never be taken lightly, as living out what Jesus is saying of us, especially in this post modern age, can quickly become a matter of life and death. And even with this life-threatening consideration we continue to hear Jesus using words such as ‘This is my commandment’ and we realize the gravity with which he calls us to live like him; that is, to surrender all, even our very lives. Jesus tells us that it is love that pushed him to live sacrificially! Jesus tells us that it is love that ought to push us to do the same. Yes, it is love! Love which is the greatest ethic that can result in human flourishing and the flourishing of all creation. Not any kind of love though – not the sentimental, self-gratifying love that is felt mainly through warm feelings or good moods; but rather the very same love that the Father had for Jesus, which is the same love Jesus modeled for us and with which he loved us. This love that Jesus speaks of is a mature kind, an attitude that always seeks the best interests of its object. This love is active, it is self-giving, it is self-crucifying; it is the kind of love that has both God and others at its centre. Jesus lived out this love by surrendering his all, even his very life. Hence, from these verses Jesus speaks with much authority [v.12&13], “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…” With the one breath Jesus commands us to love, and defines that love as laying down one’s life for one’s friends.      

Here is a truth that needs our consideration:

Love, by its very nature, finds greatest expression when we live so that the lives of others can be better. Is this not what Jesus defines as a guiding principle for how we relate with one another? There is no greater love than this, he says, than to lay down one’s life for others? The greatest expression of love that we can make to anyone, or to any people is to live so that their lives can be better. Guided by this great love, Paul Bogle, a National Hero of Jamaica and Jamaican Baptist deacon and activist led the 1865 Morant Bay protesters, who marched for justice and fair treatment for all the people in Jamaica. After what was eventually called the Morant Bay rebellion, Bogle was captured by government troops, tried and convicted by British authorities under martial law, and was hanged on October 24, 1865 in the Morant Bay Court House. Paul Bogle lived so that the lives of many of us could be better. Guided by this great love, Samuel “Sam” Sharpe, a renowned native Baptist preacher and now National Hero was the main instigator of the 1831 Slave Rebellion, which began on the Kensington Estate in St. James and which was largely instrumental in bringing about the abolition of slavery. Sam Sharpe, Daddy Sharpe, who famously said, “I would rather die upon yonder gallows than live in slavery” was hanged on May 23, 1832. In 1834 the Abolition Bill, was passed by the British Parliament and in 1838, slavery was abolished. Sam Sharpe lived so that the lives of many of us could be better. Guided by this great love, are many Jamaicans who continue to go above and beyond the call of duty even to the point where life and property are placed on the line in particular moments of sacrificial living; and yet still there are thousands of ordinary Jamaicans who not just respond sacrificially in a particular moment, but whose lives day in day out – everyday and everywhere – reflect this constant self-giving, self-crucifying, others and God-centered love, which ultimately makes life in our homes, community, nation and the world a better place. Love, by its very nature finds greatest expression when we live so that lives of others become better.   

This world however, is still a broken, divided and dangerous place; our nation – Jamaica, this land we love – still suffers from the scourge of poverty, not only in relation to our economy but also our policies, system of justice and social responsibilities. Crime, violence and indiscipline still boldly ravage our communities, leaving hopeless faces soaked in blood and tears; our homes, which ought to be that space for influencing moral, spiritual and social excellence in the young and the next generation of Jamaicans, are just as broken. Churches, schools and other similar organizations are desperately trying their best to bring about social change but the country looks on and sees the brokenness and depravity all around and says, ‘Your best is not good enough!’ It is within this brokenness that this truth revealed by Jesus finds relevance – love, by its very nature finds greatest expression when we live so that the lives of others can be better. It is within this context that the opportunity to offer the greatest expression of love is more visible – living so that the lives of others can be better. It is within this setting of injustice and poverty, danger and opportunity that each one of us can be the change that we seek. Love by its very nature finds greatest expression when we live so that the lives of others become better.         

What are the implications of this truth? Here are two possible implications:

[ i.] Each of us in our decisions must choose to consider others before us

Since love, by its very nature, finds greatest expression when we live so that the lives of others become better, then each one of us in our decisions must choose to consider others before ourselves. No doubt this is a principle that goes contrary to a world that madly shouts, ‘self first, others last!’ But look where that principle has brought us! Now is the time to seriously consider this truth put forward by Jesus as a necessary command for the healing of people and nation; now is the time to put into action, now is the time to practice on an everyday basis the sacrificial living, by each of us in our decisions choosing to consider others before ourselves. In our homes be the example to the young who are still impressionable and are looking to you for guidance by choosing to consider others first and self last; on our roads ways drivers of public passenger vehicles considering their passengers’ welfare over and against the need for speed and the thrill of more money from the next trip; in our communities each considering the collective need for beauty and health in our surroundings over and against personal desires to rid ourselves of garbage by throwing it onto public spaces; in our conversations, especially disagreements, each choosing to listen, understand and respect the different opinion of the other instead of fighting to allow personal views to win at all cost; in the board rooms and policy meetings a consideration given to the care of people and employees over and against the pleasure of executive bonuses and company profits; in our churches a consideration to be less inwards looking onto endless internal affairs and unending building projects and deliberately choosing to be more out wards focused by standing in solidarity with the surrounding communities through increased acts of mission and more evangelistic efforts. Since love, by its very nature, finds greatest expression when we live so that lives of others become better, then each one of us in our decisions must choose to consider others before our own interests and personal needs.

When we live in this way by choosing to consider others before ourselves it is one way of showing others the greatest expression of our love. No more do we need to convince anyone that love in within our hearts for them, now we can show it and make a great expression of it in all our relationships and social interactions. Now by choosing to consider their needs before our own we would have satisfied what Jesus describes as ‘there is no greater love then for someone to lay down their life for another’. Husbands and wives, parents and children, employer and employees, pastors and members, professionals and clients, politicians and communities, government and people, all can now make the greatest expression of love by choosing to consider the needs of the other before their own. Since love, by its very nature, finds greatest expression when we live so that lives of others become better, then each one of us in our decisions must choose to consider others before our own interests and personal needs.           

Here is another implication:

[ii.] Each of us in our conduct must never allow our pleasure to come at the expense of others

Since love, by its very nature, finds greatest expression when we live so that lives of others become better, then each one of us in our conduct must never allow our pleasure to come at the expense of others. Listen to Jesus carefully, ‘There is no greater love than someone laying down their life for friends’. There is absolutely nothing here that supports gaining anything at the expense of others! In fact if we craft a negative version of what Jesus is saying it would sound something like this: ‘There is no greater hatred than when people promote themselves by using and abusing their friends’. There is a certain degree of sadness that comes to our hearts simply by hearing this converse statement of Jesus. Sadness comes because we know the personal pain of this tragedy – someone promoting themself by using and abusing us. It is not love when people gain at the expense of others! It is not love when somebody’s pleasure is gained by causing hurt to another! It is not love when power is used to secure itself by oppressing the vulnerable and the poor! It is not love when leaders govern by instilling fear and the use of threats! It is not love when systems are designed to take from the mass, most times the poor, and reward by chance a few! It is not love when companies and banks neglect the concept of a just cost and charge at will fees to support a growing profit! It is not love! Have we been saying, ‘I love you’ yet our actions have been betraying the opposite? We say, ‘I love you’ yet spouses are feeling rejected and abused? We say ‘I love you’ yet our employees, members, colleagues, friends experience the opposite? We say ‘I love you’ yet our policies and adverts shamelessly convey the opposite? Rise up Jamaica; rise up Jamaicans everywhere, rise up all who know how this feels; rise up with courage, rise up with consciousness, rise up with a determination to stop this tragedy of the modern age, rise up being resolute in your stance to never allow your pleasure to come at the expense of others! Since love, by its very nature, finds greatest expression when we live so that lives of others become better, then each one of us in our conduct must never allow our pleasure to come at the expense of others.    

Conclusion

“This is my commandment,” says Jesus, “that you love one another as I have loved you.13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends...”Here is a truth that comes out of this declaration of Jesus - love, by its very nature, finds greatest expression when we live so that the lives of others become better. There are two implications for our lives today: [1.] Each one of us in our decisions must choose to consider others before ourselves; and [2.] Each one of us in our conduct must never allow our pleasure to come at the expense of others. Love which binds the Father to the Son – Jesus the Christ, this same Love which binds Jesus – Lord and Saviour – to us, is the same love that must be shared among us. A love that is self-giving, self-crucifying, others and God centered, in other words a sacrificial love that causes us to surrender our all so that life for all and even the creation can be better. At this time, in this our island Jamaica, we are the ones we seek, we are the ones we have been waiting for; therefore, let us choose to consider others before us and let us never allow our pleasure to be at the expense of others.

Amen.

(Christ For Today – April 2, 2017 – Dayne Grant)

JBU Calendar

May 2017
S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31

Daily Bible Quotes