“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
We celebrate stories every day of heroes who give up their lives to save perfect strangers – the ones who run into burning buildings and step in front of active shooters. Videos of everyday people who jump in front of speeding trains to save perfect strangers go viral. We recognize selflessness when we see it, and laying down one’s life for another is the perfect example of that.
It is Easter morning, and as a Christian, today I am celebrating what I believe is the ultimate example of selflessness.
When you’re a writer whose focus has been tied to personal growth, success, and leadership, faith can be a very taboo subject. As in, don’t touch it with a ten-foot pole if you want people to read your stuff. Stay far away from it so that you don’t alienate your audience.
It’s much safer that way. Fortunately for me, safe isn’t my go-to.
Here’s the reality… My faith is woven tightly into everything I think about personal growth, success, and leadership. In my experience, they go together like peanut butter and chocolate. They’re good on their own, but it amplifies all the goodness when you put them together. Personal growth becomes easier to achieve with faith. Success becomes more attainable when I tie it into my faith. My faith is filled with lessons and perspectives on developing leadership.
Learning to be selfless is no different.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Those words from John 15:13 are worth paying attention to. Christ spoke these words as he is preparing to go to the cross to die. Whether you’re a Christian or not, this example of selflessness is one we can all learn from.
In this verse, Jesus is giving his disciples some final instructions as he approaches his death, which he knows is coming soon. A fuller version of the verse reads, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
“Love each other as I have loved you.” As Jesus says this, He is about to be led away to his death on the cross. He is about to give us the ultimate example of selflessness – He is about to step in front of a bullet for us. He knows what’s coming. Before they nail him down, they will whip him brutally, beating Him to the point of being physically unrecognizable. Selfless. He will carry his own cross, and people will spit on him, yelling obscenities the entire way. He will remain silent, not responding. Selfless. Spikes will be driven directly through his hands and feet and they will hang him from a cross for hours, until he no longer has the strength to take another breath and He ultimately dies. Selfless.
So why did he do it?
Here’s what I believe as a Christian…
I’m a sinner – in fact, we’re all sinners. We all have sin in our lives. God hates sin, but he loves us, so he sent Jesus down from Heaven to become human and receive the punishment for sin in our place. He stepped in front of the bullet for us when he died on the cross… but that’s not the end of the story. Three days after he died and they buried him in a tomb, Jesus came back to life and defeated death once and for all. If we believe in Jesus and his sacrifice, all our past and present sins are washed clean and we are once again presentable to God. Through Christ, we defeat death as well and receive the gift of life in Heaven when we die. That’s I believe, and it’s what we celebrate as Christians today on Easter – that Jesus died for us, defeated death, and that we can now do the same because we have been washed clean.
Jesus’ example, dying on that cross, was selfless. Christ didn’t need to take the beatings or the nails being driven into his hands and feet. Jesus didn’t need to get spit upon or jeered at as he carried his own cross through the street. He didn’t need to take his last breath as a human hanging from a rough wooden tree. He did it all for one reason… He loved us.
I find myself in awe of this act, and at the same time, I struggle every day to follow Christ’s example and be selfless. Instead, I think of my “self less.” There’s a difference. Thinking of my “self less” I still hold on to my old selfish tendencies. What’s in this for me? What am I going to get out of this? Yes, I am doing this for others, but how is it going to make me feel good?
Being selfless sets “me” aside to focus on others.
As I have been reflecting this week on Jesus’ death on the cross, that’s my goal: to become more selfless. I want to step out of my selfishness and into a place where I can look at my wife, kids, friends, partners, and clients differently. I want to continue refining my approach to be more like Christ, looking at each of these people and asking what can I do for them, not what they can do for me.
It’s hard. Living a selfless life doesn’t always feel natural. Instead, I find myself dipping back into how culture tells me to live – focused on “getting mine.” Selflessness in life is challenging, but then again, most of the best things are.
Whether you’re Christian or not, living a more selfless life is something worth chasing, and Christ gives us an example we can all look to. This week, in the relationships you’re blessed to share, step into selflessness and give freely without any expectation of anything in return. Then, see what happens…
Have a blessed Easter. – John
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