Sunday, September 19, 2010

261 / Sunday Sermon

I have always been partial to John 15:13 (I did go to theological seminary, after all!).

That often quoted verse in the Bible says: "Greater love has no one than this, that a person should lay down his life for his friends."

In context, the verse is usually seen as referring to Jesus' crucifixion, and of course that makes sense; but I have a slightly different explanation, as a kind of "add-on." (In the parlance of the theological seminary, they'd call my explanation an exegesis).

To me, the key concept is that a person is supposed to to lay down his or her life, to benefit his or her friends. Being of the Quaker persuasion, I read "Friend" rather broadly, to encompass just about everyone, but the word certainly refers to all those with whom one is in any close or trusting relationship.

"Our" lives, as I see it, are the lives that we want to live - the lives that are most convenient or pleasant for us. And at root, everyone of us does want things to go "our" way. Love, to the contrary, is giving up what "we" want (laying down "our" lives) in order to benefit others. There is no greater love than that.

Note, this does not require any sort of physical death; only giving up the plans we favor to do something that will benefit someone else, even though it is not our first choice. (It does seem to be particularly important that we accomplish this "laying down our lives" thing with respect to those with whom we have a close or trusting relationship - our families, our children, our "friends").

Insisting that "our" lives should always go just the way we prefer, doesn't really work out. At least, that has been my experience.

If you want to explore this Sunday Sermon topic at greater length, I recommend Works of Love, by Søren Kierkegaard. It's a whole book about the same idea. As Kierkegaard notes, the first commandment is that we should love God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our mind. That is the first and the "great commandment." The "second commandment" is like unto it: thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.

"Shall" is the word that Kierkegaard says is most important. That's not optional, in other words. It's a requirement!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!