"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."

This passage of Scripture embodies the very heart of Memorial Day. Nationally, we stand in the face of such love this weekend.

In combat, it is not necessarily the high ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that motivates a sailor or soldier to things he or she never thought personally possible. Rather, it is the love for the brother or sister in arms next to them in the conflict. Medal of honor recipient Lawrence Chamberlain tried to explain the willingness of men to face bullets in this way: "Simple manhood, force of discipline, pride, love, or the bond of comradeship." This longing for all to get home safely together motivates so powerfully in the heat of the battle! It is this special bond that creates a camaraderie so palatable that it lasts a lifetime and explains unbelievable acts of heroism.

Jesus Himself cites this axiom in John 15:13, and we do well to honor those who have fallen in the display of such love.

In John 15, Jesus was in the midst of his final week with his disciples. They sensed the impending reality of the cross, and Jesus had been preparing them for his absence throughout the preceding chapter. This was an uncertain time for the disciples. They themselves would soon desert Jesus! Soon Jesus would no longer be with them, and faith would no longer be sight. What possible assurances would they have in Jesus' absence? To what could they return to find comfort after Jesus was gone?

Jesus makes clear that in His absence, assurance of faith is found in the degree of love believers show to one another. Jesus longs for us to be fully assured in faith. He points out three things about love as a means of assurance: direction, setting, and pattern.

Assurance in Jesus’ absence is directed to the will.

Previously in Jesus' ministry, assurance had been directed to people's sight (Luke 7:18-23; John 10:25, 37, 38.) In John 15:11-14 and 17, Jesus uses the verbiage of assurance and defines it in terms of obedience to His commands. The summary of His commands is to love one another.

Obeying this command is the functional method whereby Jesus’ joy takes up residence in us. Fullness of joy is not sourced in the human condition; it must be imported from Jesus! Obeying this command in the strength of Jesus is the fountainhead that makes our joy full. Fullness of joy is most deeply experienced when our joy learns from and is controlled by Jesus’ joy.

Assurance in Jesus’ absence exists in a specific setting.

The words in the chapter that describe the setting of love are "one another" and "friends." In the setting of loving one another as believers, and doing so in a way that Jesus instructed, we find assurance. In this setting, the supernatural work of Jesus in our lives is required.

In the church, a new kind of relationship was born. God called prophets in the Old Testament “my servants the prophets” (Jeremiah 7:25; 25:4; 29:19), and 1 Peter 1:10-12 testifies that they longed to know more details about what they prophesied. Christians are no longer slaves or servants but “friends” for whom Jesus was willing to die. The proof is that Jesus has told us all things that He has heard from the Father! This knowledge means everything. If you possess it in a manner that leads to self-sacrificing love, then you are Jesus' friend. This knowledge is the engine that makes it possible to love one another in a self-sacrificing way.

The evidence of this new relationship is a heart turned in obedience to Jesus (John 15:14). To know all that we know in Christ and yet fail to love in a progressively growing way as Jesus has commanded means that we truly know nothing. Whatever knowledge we may claim to possess may be knowledge, but it is not the kind of knowledge that Jesus gives in salvation. Saving knowledge grips one's life and propels one's will to change.

Assurance in Jesus’ absence is found in specific pattern of love.

The pattern of love is how Christ has loved us. The greatest act of human love is to die for a friend. It is great in quantity because there is nothing left to give. It is great in quality because it is a complete and absolute disregard of any self-interest. This is exactly how Jesus loved us. He did all of this infinitely and eternally knowing full well every detail and every response to his love.

He loved us in obedience to the command of the Father (John 10:18; 14:31; 15:10b), not because it felt good. It was in full knowledge of the human condition. Jesus actively chose each of us in the full knowledge of the mess he was getting (John 15:16). He loved us because He longed for us to be fruitful with fruit that would remain for all eternity. His desires were taken out of this temporal existence and elevated to all eternity. He loved us so that our prayers would be answered. This kind of rigorous love grows us and shapes us to think, feel, and act like Jesus. In so doing, our prayers take on the values of Jesus Christ. And God the Father always hears and answers Jesus’ prayers.

Jesus' pattern of love has several implications. The opposite of love is not hate but selfishness. “One another” is the beneficiary of love, but not the source or referent in love. We too often confuse these two ideas! There is a single path to take when confused in our efforts to love one another. To love just as Jesus commands to love will always benefit a relationship, regardless of the response.

Application Points

  • Is your joy full? Is your joy defined and controlled by Jesus' joy? The answer to this question is not directed to your feelings but rather to your will. Obedience to the command to love one another in a self-sacrificing way is what gives assurance that Jesus must know me. Without His help and consistently referencing His work on the Cross, obedience to this command is impossible.
  • One of the most intimate “one another” relationships is marriage. Assurance is reflected either positively or negatively in the marriage bond. Feelings of love or frustration are felt with greatest intensity in this setting. The purpose of the marriage relationship is to make you more holy. Making us more holy is not the by-product of perfection in our marriage, but the by-product of loving and serving even when we think or feel our spouse does not measure up to all they should be. Assurance of salvation is not found by making sure your spouse is toeing the line. Anybody can do that! Assurance is found in toeing the line yourself, sacrificially, in obedience to this wonderful command to love one another regardless of our spouse.
  • Assurance in Jesus' absence is a critical commodity in the church age. On Memorial Day, we are surrounded by the reality of acts displaying “no greater love.” We stand in awe and learn so much from these examples. Our assurance and pride in America is renewed and strengthened. In an infinite and eternal way, Jesus has demonstrated this “no greater love.” We must learn to love in this same way. Full assurance that we are a citizen of heaven is directed to our will and exercised in the setting of "one another" as the friends following the pattern set out by Jesus our Lord. May Jesus help us as we die to self and live in love.