I love birds, which is why I bought six caged birds and carried them home to our daughter Alice, who began to care for them daily. Then one of the birds fell ill and died. We wondered if the birds would be more likely to thrive if they were not caged. So we freed the surviving five and observed them fly away in jubilation.
Alice then pointed out, “Do you realize, Daddy, that it was the death of one bird that caused us to free the rest?”
Isn’t that what the Lord Jesus did for us? Just as one man’s sin (Adam’s) brought condemnation to the world, so one Man’s righteousness (Jesus’s) brought salvation to those who believe (Rom. 5:12–19). Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
John makes it more practical when he says, “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16). This won’t likely mean literal death, but as we align our lives with Jesus’s example of sacrificial love, we find that we are “laying down our lives.” For instance, we might choose to deprive ourselves of material goods in order to share them with others (v. 17) or make time to be with someone who needs comfort and companionship.
Who do you need to sacrifice for today?
In what ways have others sacrificed for your well-being?
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Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us motivates us to sacrifice ourselves for others.
John reminds believers to model the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. True Christian love is sacrificial action (1 John 3:16) and selfless generosity (v. 17). John exhorts us to be loving and genuine, both in our speech and, more so, in our actions (v. 18). This kind of sacrificial love is the clearest of evidence that one has a new life (v. 14). The person who lacks love shows that he does not really know God nor is he in close fellowship with God, “for God is love” (1 John 4:7–8). Reminiscent of John 3:16, 1 John 4:9–10 once again reiterates how much God loves us (vv. 9–10).