No Greater Love

“No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Memorial Day: A federal holiday honoring military personnel that have died while serving in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard. The above verse, nestled in one of Jesus’ teaching sessions with His disciples, is often quoted as we remember the brave men and women that have paid the ultimate price, their very lives, for our freedom. I’ve seen it carved on tombstones of service persons, dramatized in war movies and included in military biographies. Love for friends compels us to do things that may cause us personal harm.

While honoring war dead began in the United States after the Civil War, the practice dates back to before the time of Jesus Christ. One of the first known public tributes to those who gave their lives in battle was in 431 B.C. Pericles, an Athenian general and political figure, spoke at a funeral and is recorded praising those killed in the Peloponnesian War. You can find his interesting speech online. Many believe that it provided source material and inspiration for Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

I wonder if the disciples had the speech of Pericles in mind over 400 years later when Jesus was teaching them. Many of the Jewish residents were looking for a military king like David that would rid them of the oppressive yoke of the Roman government. This could mean loss of life! Then the disciples heard these words of Jesus -- that laying down one’s life for a friend is a sign of love.

I find it interesting that we honor those that have died in war as a sign of love. I certainly don’t disagree and would further state that it is not hatred for the enemy, but love for family, friends, country, and comrades in arms that more effectively propels us into harm's way.

This weekend, as we remember those that have given their all so that we may experience the freedoms we enjoy, I hope we will also see the imperative for us in our spiritual battle each day – and that imperative is love.

Loving those around us, both our friends and our enemies, provides us with an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus. Loving those around us may be difficult, even costly. Loving those around us may include leading them to freedom, not only in this world, but also for eternity! Indeed, that is LOVE!

Who in your world needs to hear about the love of God this Memorial Day weekend? Ask God to let His love for you and your love for Him compel you to share.

By Bill Ellis

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