“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
This is true love. This is unconditional love. “This love is selfless; it gives and expects nothing in return.” (Wikipedia) Now, I have to stop here. Because I agree with this, but I don’t agree with this. And I just don’t think love is a black and white kind of thing. And my question is, is love truly unconditional? Does it actually expect nothing in return?
I could believe that if You didn’t move on to verse 14. “You are my friends IF you do whatsoever I command you.” That seems quite conditional to me. And let me hop back to John 3:16, since we all know that one. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Isn’t that a condition, that one must believe in Him? It’s not that because He died, now no one will perish. Some will still perish, but not those who believe in the greatness and power of His love and it’s demonstration.
I’m drawn to Romans 5:15-17 where Paul speaks of the “free gift” of God through grace in Jesus Christ. Now, where the King James Version and others call it a free gift, God’s Word translation refers to it as God’s gift. The Contemporary English Version also calls it the gift of God. So, most agree with the free gift idea. But I struggle with that, Lord, not that You wouldn’t give a free gift, but if You require something in return, how can I call it free?
Now, in Strong’s definition of this “gift”, “charisma” these are the words used, “a gift of grace, an undeserved favor.” And that’s exactly what it is. You didn’t treat us like the original offence. Under the original offence, Adam’s fall, we were all condemned under sin with him. But here’s the UNDESERVED gift. Through One Man, You, we receive grace. But we don’t receive that grace unconditionally. We receive that grace and righteousness that we don’t really deserve ONLY by placing our faith in You.
I’ll tell you why this bothers me, Lord. I had a young relative once tell me, “We’re all God’s children.” And that’s just dangerous thinking. That’s like rewriting Scripture to say, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that no one would perish but all would have eternal life.” See what’s missing? You didn’t mean it that way. There is a condition. There is a commitment on our part that must be made. This is not a free gift. It’s an undeserved gift. There’s a big difference between the two.
Now, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon never mentions anything about free when defining and explaining “charisma,” this gift of God. Thayer’s calls it “a gift of grace; a favor which one receives without any merit of his own.” In this sense, it’s considered as “the economy of divine grace, by which the pardon of sin and eternal salvation is appointed to sinners in consideration of the merits of Christ laid hold of by faith.”
It’s wonderful to get something for free. But at the same time, it’s often less valued. Easy come- easy go. No pain- no gain. What cost me little, holds me little. And I’d like to know when choosing Jesus didn’t mean I had to count the cost? If choosing You was this free, easy thing, why did many of Your disciples turn away saying, “This is too hard for us.”? Here are Your own words in Luke 14:27,28, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
We are not all children of God by nature of being born. We only become children of God by nature of the death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection and by entrusting ourselves to all that that entails. Your death and life must become my death and life. This is the condition. Without this condition of amazing grace, undeserved grace, I am dead in my trespasses, walking in them, following the prince of the power of the air, allowing him to work in me as a son/daughter of disobedience. Without committing to You, I live in the passion of my own flesh, carrying out the desires of my own body and mind, and am by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (see Ephesians 2:1-3) But let’s continue to the Good News! “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the GREAT love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus!
It was never free, never, ever. It cost Jesus. And it costs me. I must die to self and live to You, Jesus. I must place my life in Yours and leave my old life behind. I must count the cost because there is one. But I don’t deserve to have this privilege to be unified with You, that You would count me worth the cost of dying for, worth the cost of being separated from God for, worth the cost of experiencing so much that God should never have had to experience for me. I don’t deserve any of it, yet You counted me worth it. That’s the gift. That’s the tremendous, PRICELESS gift. It wasn’t ever free. It was PRICELESS!
I’m saved through faith. This is the cost in grace. This is what grace offers me, that ability beyond imagination to be one with You, to be unified with You, to count You worth my everything and to place myself in You. I couldn’t do it without You. I could never do anything to deserve it. All I can boast about is You and how You have given me this opportunity of all opportunities to commit myself to You and allow You to work through me and create me into an instrument of righteousness and God-works.
Funny, I had no idea we would go in this direction this morning, Lord. Truly, greater love has no one than Yours, that You would lay down Your life for Your friends. See, unfortunately, for those who don’t commit to You, Your laying down Your life doesn’t become priceless, and it serves no effect. But for those who find the cost worth it, for those who reciprocate and accept Your friendship, Your love, Your Treasure, we receive the greatest gift we ever didn’t deserve- You and Your friendship. And that is a gift worth leaving everything for.
Lord, Your love is amazing. It is greater than any love ever. It sacrifices everything for the benefit of others. Lord, I want to love like that. I want to commit myself like that to You and to others. I want to live in You and in Your example of love. I want to commit because You alone are worth the cost. You loved me so much though I didn’t and don’t deserve it. So teach me to love like that, to love though others don’t deserve it. And let me keep loving and demonstrating that love no matter their response. Because I’ll know from watching Your example that there will be some, not all, who catch hold of that love, and return it. And each one will be worth the cost, just like it is for You.