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Gospel of John 15: 9-17 (NIV)
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”
Jesus’ command could not have been more clear: “Love each other.” This was a different matter from remaining in his love, something in which his disciples would be able to delight so long as they (we) keep his commands.
“My command is this:” he said. “Love each other as I have loved you.” This sets a high bar for those who aspire to be disciples of Jesus. The standard is to love as he has loved. That requires that the good of the other takes precedence. He explained specifically what he meant: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” That is the example Jesus gave us, in fact he gave an even more loving demonstration in that his death was not only for his friends. His death was also for those who were hostile to him but who, like Saul of Tarsus, would later repent and return to him.
To lay down one’s life for one’s friends requires that we regard our lives as of secondary importance compared to our contributing to the well-being of others and this begins with the Church of God.
In many parts of the world today the Church of God is suffering violent persecution. This is of concern to our Lord, I am certain. “Laying down our life” for the persecuted church is not a rallying call to take up arms. It is a call, however, for us to eschew complacency and to bring earnest prayer to God in support of our Christian brothers and sisters elsewhere. We can assist in practical ways, too. Reputable organisations* provide those of the persecuted church with sanctuary, with aid and assistance and with spiritual support. We can and should assist in resourcing such organisations, forgoing some of our comforts in order to contribute to the survival of others of Jesus’ family.
Lord Jesus Christ, we lift to you our Christian brothers and sisters who live with the constant threat of violence or injustice solely because of their faith in you. Be a shield to all who take refuge in you. Help those who have had to leave family, friends and all that is familiar, in order to make a fresh start after violence or injustice; bless them in their new beginnings and keep them safe. We praise you for those who endure injustice and imprisonment. We ask you to strengthen them and their families. Amen