Sacrificial Love

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends (John 15:13).

True Love

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples as he taught them what it means to love and obey Him. Naturally, Jesus not only spoke of love, but expressed it during His life and in His death so that we may live.

The apostle John, who wrote the Gospel named after him and was a witness to Jesus' ministry, stated in 1 John 3:18 that we should … not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. This is not to say we shouldn't tell people we genuinely love that we love them; we should do this.

But as Christians we should back up our words of love with actions. True love – which is sacrificial love – means what it says: being willing to sacrifice what is needed of oneself for the sake of another. This includes lovingly helping people financially, with our time, by listening, interacting, caring, and giving of ourselves with proper Biblical boundaries to those in need.

Laying Down Our Lives

When Jesus spoke of laying down His life, He was referring to His death with the implication that His followers would be willing to do the same for others. How do we do this? We do this by sacrificially laying aside our preferences, desires, rights, and anything else we cling to for the benefit of others.

We so often read this verse and only think of dying for someone else. This is certainly included, but sacrificial love means we live sacrificially in all ways. Is this not what God tells every Christian to do? Is this not what God tells every husband and wife to do? Is this not what God tells every employee and family member to do? Imagine a husband who loves his wife and gives himself for her as Scripture commands (Ephesians 5:25-29). Imagine a wife who submits and respects – showing sacrificial love – to her husband as Scripture commands (Ephesians 5:22-24).

Sacrificial love doesn't mean we dismiss or overlook sin. On the contrary, love rejoices with truth, is kind, and thinks no evil (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). Sacrificial love means we sacrifice our own comfort for the benefit of others. Isn't this what God does for us? Of course!

Sacrificial love prevents us from taking advantage of others, but rather protects them from being taken advantage of. Men, this is your calling with the women in your life, especially your girlfriend, fiancé, or wife. Women, this is your calling as well. The call to sacrificial love includes all who know Christ and want to follow Him faithfully.

Dying for Christ

Yet, we cannot sacrificially love others if we do not sacrificially love God. If we are not willing to die for Christ, we will not live for Him.

Sacrificial love for God leads us to die and live for Him and others. We do not exalt any individual as God, but fulfill the two great commandments: love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-40). If we don't sacrificially love others, we do not sacrificially love God. While it's nice to hear a thank you or be acknowledged, sacrificial love doesn't serve to be noticed or acknowledged, but for God's glory and the benefit of others.

Do you love this way? Do you love those closest to you this way – family, friends, children, and spouses? Do you love your enemies this way? Do you express love, or just say it?

We love Jesus because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), and we love others because He expresses this love through us. Sacrificially loving God means to worship Him. Sacrificially loving others means we serve them.

Let us love God and love others – as He commanded – by His strength and being willing to love sacrificially.

Dr. Michael Weis is a pastor, video operator, editor, and social media manager at Zion's Hope.