Jesus said to his disciples: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” John 15:9-13
I often wonder if I’d be able to lay down my life for my friends or a random stranger. I usually (very humbly) come to the realization that I probably wouldn’t. I’m utilitarian and my brain would naturally begin to weigh out the options. Okay… I am a ‘good person.’ I try to help people. I haven’t murdered anyone. “It’s between me and him? What is he doing to improve the world? Maybe we should tally up our good actions verse bad actions and then save whichever person is doing more good in the world,” I say to myself. It’s too late. By the time my utilitarian brain has weighed all the options, the person is probably long gone and I get to live with the guilt of trying to measure my life against another’s for the rest of my time here on earth.
I know I’m totally missing the point, attempting to measure the worth of a human being based off of actions rather than the humanity of a child of God. But it’s the way my brain works and in a life or death situation, it can be very difficult to go against our natural instincts.
So instead of replaying a make-believe scenario of laying down my life for the person next to me or risking the very dangerous practice of judging between the value of my life versus one of my friends, I choose to focus on small, practical ways I can lay down my life for those around me. Maybe you have your own practices. I’d love to hear them!
Filling the car up with gas for your spouse
Giving up your aisle seat on a plane flight to move to a middle seat so that young mom with a screaming baby can sit next to her spouse
Letting the car (read: human driving a car) merge into your lane with a friendly smile and wave
Using my (very small) muscles and very tired body to carry furniture for refugee families
Taking the time out of our evening to pray for a friend in need
Picking up trash someone else littered
Helping out your coworker on a task even though it’s not in your job description
Asking the person behind us in a meeting, a movie, church, dance class, etc. “Can you see? Let me know if I need to move.”
Choosing not to fill my glass up with ice before going to bed so that I don’t wake up my husband
Offering to babysit for a young mother so she can have a night out
Staying up all night with your sick family member so they aren’t alone
Letting the person who clearly seems stressed out about being late cut you in line at Starbucks
Sacrificing your own money and comfort to help someone less fortunate
Taking my drive home to call a friend in need of a check up even when there is absolutely no energy left to talk
Paying for the meal of the person behind you in the drive thru
Doing your housemate’s dishes, especially if you are afraid you are enabling them to be messy or lazy
Refilling the soap, toilet paper, hand towels, etc. in a public place when it is not your job
Silently giving up our favorite seat at church for the newbie who doesn’t know that we all have unofficial claimed seats ;)
Taking the time out of our busy day to write an encouraging e-mail or text
Driving your sick friend to their chemo treatments
Giving up your day off to volunteer to help the needy
… The list goes on.
How cool would it be if the way unbelievers described Christians was, “You know, those people who are always making sacrifices to help other people… those guys who go around San Diego serving people joyfully? Y’know, those Jesus people… they don’t really seem to care if they are first or not... I like those people.”
May we lay down our lives for one another, spreading love and humility like wildfire.