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. To love is to lay down one’s life. Husbands lay down their lives for their wives; wives lay down their lives for their husbands. Father and mothers lay down their lives for their children. Soldiers lay down their lives out of love for country. “Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends,” Jesus said. “I am the good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” Jesus laid down His life in order to save us; and we in love lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Note the order carefully. We love because God in Christ first loved us. We must first be loved by God before we can love one another. Jesus must first lay down His life on the cross before we can take up our cross, follow Him, and lay down our lives for one another. God’s love in Christ always comes first because our sin-sick humanity cannot, indeed will not love sacrificially.
Old Adam loves those who love him. He lays down his life only when there is something to be gained, some return on his sacrificial investment. His love is self-centered, not other-centered. But that’s not the way of Jesus, nor is it the way of the baptized child of God in Jesus. We are given a new way to love one another: as Christ first loved us. That’s how the new you in Christ loves – with that same seeking, sacrificing, love with which God loved the world, and you, in Jesus. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
My song is love unknown, My Savior’s love for me, Love to the loveless shown That they might lovely be. Oh, who am I That for my sake My Lord should take Frail flesh and die? (My Song is Love Unknown, LSB 430:1)