Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
This text is often quoted at the funerals of people who have died in battle. Fortunately most of us are not asked to make this ultimate sacrifice.
Some time ago I read about a child who needed a blood transplant from a near relative. His younger brother had the right blood type, and agreed to have them take his blood. As the boy giving the blood lay on the hospital bed next to his brother, he said a tearful goodbye to his family. That is when it dawned on his relatives that the child actually thought they would take so much blood that he would die. It was incredibly moving for his parents to notice this. They hugged both of their children, and reassured them that they would both be fine.
There are moments when a person might be asked to literally lay down his or her life. In the old days, this was sadly true of many women giving birth. Few of us will be asked to do this, but the task applies to everyone in this way. We have different levels of our mind and spirit. On the highest level we are children of God, full of wisdom and love. On lower levels we are imperfect beings with good and bad points. On the lowest level we have a tendency to selfishness and worldliness.
Imagine being in a loving relationship with another person. There will be times when your feelings are hurt, when your needs are not being met, when you feel resentful or jealous. If we do not stop to look at our state of mind, we might act out of those lower feelings, speaking or acting harshly toward the other person. You can imagine someone in that situation yelling, “You always think of yourself. What about me?”
A person doing spiritual work might look at the part of self that wants to behave like that, and decide to act out of a higher level. As a result the person lays down that self-centered life, for the sake of his or her friend. That can only happen by tapping into a higher love, the greater love that Jesus talked about.