” Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15.13).Years ago, while doing a weekend series in New Jersey, I believe, I was asked whether or not this verse was actually true. After all, it’s one thing to lay down your life for your friends and quite another to do so for your enemies.
At the heart of this question, which we’ll attempt to answer in a moment, is a vital principle of love. First of all, the older I get, the more I am convinced that genuine love, whether for friend or enemy, and self-sacrifice are synonymous. One truly cannot exist without the other, for genuine love “seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians 13.5). True love is not simply concerned with what it wants, but also on the needs of the other as well. Paul advised the Philippian believers as follows, saying “look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2.4). . To the degree that principles of self-preservation are followed rather than those of self-sacrifice, genuine love begins to splinter. This statement does not imply that self-preservation is always evil; sometimes it is a necessity. The point is simply that it is incompatible with genuine love.
I realize that this idea strikes at the very core of all that we have been taught. After all, in our modern Darwinian culture, circumstances often reduce to a survival of the fittest mentality. Self-sacrificing human behaviors still confound many adamant atheists, while altruistic practices, which many have lost faith in entirely, cause the multitudes to stand in awe and scratch their heads in wonder.
“The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian” (White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 470).
All of this leads us to our answer.
From our perspective, God surely was once our enemy:
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5.10).
But from His perspective, God has no enemies. He loves everyone, giving to all, including the “just and the unjust,” the “kind as well as the unthankful.” Truly, He considers no one His enemy, as the following verse demonstrates:
“And one shall say unto him, ‘What are these wounds in thine hands?’ Then he shall answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends’” (Zechariah 13.6).
His friends. Wow! Someone once said to me that true love does not entail finding a person who will never hurt you. Instead, true love involves deciding whom you will allow to hurt you and yet choose to love them nonetheless as a result.
Consequently, I am convinced that many of us waste too much time trying to win God’s favor, when the question was never about whether or not He is our friend. On the contrary, the real question is whether or not we are His!
“Here was fulfillment of the words of scripture: ‘Abraham put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘God’s friend’” (James 2.23).
May all of us be called children of Abraham. In light of the truth regarding His great character of love, may we all embrace God, no longer as enemy, but as our Friend.
I wish you God’s best this week.