Today's Reading: 1 John 3:13-18
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (1 John 3:16).
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Love is a funny thing. It can be erotic--a kind of self-gratifying love--not only in a sexual sense, but in a "what can you do for me?" sense. It can also rise to a mutual kind of love, a friendship between two people in the sense of "what can we do for each other?" But the highest love is what John speaks of here, the love that asks, "What can I do for you?" These three kinds of love are eros, philos, and agape, respectively.
We are fundamentally eros lovers--by nature we love the things that make us feel good or benefit us in some way. But this is not always healthy. Not only do we often desire things that are harmful to us, which we pursue with reckless abandon, we do it to the harm of our neighbors. It's the person who "has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him" (1 John 3:17).
But unless a person is a sociopath, he will occasionally find a greater love in friendship, in philos. You can derive great joy from giving of yourself in a friendship. And you can even gain sense of self-satisfaction from giving some of your worldly goods to a brother in need. Philos is a two-way street.
Yet it's not the greatest love. In his Gospel, John records Jesus saying, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). This is agape. Self-sacrificial love. "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us" (1 John 3:16). He did it without expecting anything in return. Jesus' death is the height of love.
The Gospel is the progression from eros to agape. When the cross of Christ is set before us, we are convicted of our disordered eros, and through repentance, our desires are directed outside of ourselves; by His death for us, He made us His friends. But by the gift of His Spirit, He also raises us to the highest love--by laying down His life for us. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Love caused Your incarnation; Love brought You down to me. Your thirst for my salvation Procured my liberty. Oh, love beyond all telling, That led You to embrace In love, all love excelling Our lost and fallen race. (O Lord, How Shall I Meet You, LSB 334:4)