‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we also ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.’ (1 John 3:16)
The Bible tells us that the river of life which transforms our world flows from the throne of God – and that on that throne there is a lamb, who was slain (Rev.5:6, 12; 7:10; 22:1-2). This of course is a prophetic picture of our crucified king. The kingdom he reigns over is a kingdom in which the culture is characterised by self-giving, self-emptying, sacrificial love. The river carries this culture wherever it goes. And the church families that are produced, sustained and nourished by this river (the trees that grow along its banks) are to be expressions and carriers of this culture.
Therefore, the beautiful paradox of our faith is that the life we enjoy in the Holy Spirit springs from his life laid down at the cross. He dies that we might live. There are two primary things we should draw from this.
- We learn just how much we are loved. ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us…’ (1 John 3:16a). Our well-being and effectiveness in this life, in which we are to make the love of God real in the real world, is deeply affected by how secure we are, and that in turn is dependent on knowing that we are loved. The cross measures the extent of God’s love for us. To live cross-shaped lives, therefore, means that we will meditate deeply on how Jesus’ death on the cross reveals the full dimensions of his love, until we are rooted and established in that love (Eph.3:14-19)
- We follow in the same way. ‘…and we also ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.’ (1 John 3:16b). Jesus’ death on the cross is not just a means of our salvation; it is the example of how we are to live, and to love. The teaching of Jesus in the gospels before he went to the cross makes this abundantly clear. His is a call to take up our cross. We are to lay down our lives for others, not retaliate and demand our rights, not try and create a name for ourselves, but rather serve, give and sacrifice. This is the most challenging and the most magnificent calling – but there is no mistake that it is our calling. We are to have the same spirit of Christ and live like him (Phil. 2:5-8)
The cross is where it all begins and it is the heart and centre of our life together.