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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Anne Robertson

Thursday, February 24

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
—John 15:13

Self-sacrifice is one of those dicey issues. Clearly the call for it is all over the Gospel. God in Jesus is doing just that…giving up his life for the world. Jesus doesn’t say, “Take up your comfy chair and follow me.” He says, “Take up your cross.”

Accepting hardship for the sake of others is the epitome of love. And yet I have seen case after case where well-meaning Christians have encouraged people living in abusive situations to keep taking it on the chin so that their sacrifice might eventually save their abuser. I can’t believe that’s what the concept of sacrifice means, the commandment to turn the other cheek notwithstanding.

Whatever sacrifice means, it cannot mean an act of self-hatred, since the second most important commandment, Jesus says, is to keep love of neighbor and love of self in balance. Sacrifice doesn’t mean that anyone gets to have what they want at my expense.

In accepting the cross, Jesus was not doing what anyone who loved him wanted him to do. Neither was he offering them any sort of protection from persecutions to come. He was, however, doing what they needed—taking away the sting of death and forcing them to stand up on their own two feet and live what they had been taught.

I think laying down our lives for our friends sometimes means tough love—laying down the usual enabling, co-dependent patterns of our lives so that those we love can also learn to behave differently. Sometimes we lay down our life as a gauntlet that says, “No, for both of our sakes this must change.”

That can feel very much like death. Of course sometimes it means taking the hit for someone more vulnerable or taking great risks to resist social evil. But in all cases it is an act of love, both for others and ourselves.


We lay down our lives before you, God. Teach us what it means to love. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.