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Laying Down My Life

I was struck by something I noticed happening inside myself on Saturday while I was delivering Easter Lilies.

I had a couple stops in Northeast Minneapolis and as I drove through the city I wondered how safe it would be to live in homes around me. I remembered Tim Keller and his sermons on loving the city, and I thought about how important it is for the Gospel to take root in the city because social change so often begins in the city. I recalled the words of Jesus in Scripture about God's concern for the poor running through my mind, and I was sad because of how run down and impoverished the neighborhood was. But I also knew that I didn't want to live there. And so I drove away from the city conflicted by the fact that even though, theoretically, the city needs so much help, practically I just couldn't picture my wife and I purposefully moving there and raising our kids in the midst of everything.

My next stops after leaving Minneapolis were in Mendota Heights and Apply Valley. Both homes I delivered to in these southern metro suburban cities were large and located in immaculate neighborhoods . As I drove by large brick homes with SUVs and hockey nets sitting on paver stone driveways I thought, "I wish I could afford to live here." True, there were no Scriptures running through my head and no burden for any people outside of my own, but there were dreams of safety and pleasure and joy for my kids.

I would guess that these types of conflicting feelings are true for many middle class Christian Americans. We feel the burden for the poor and we wish we could do something, and at the same time, we would prefer if our doing something didn't demand much of the lives that we are currently enjoying. I would be most comfortable sacrificing for others up to the point that it doesn't cost me anything. But that wouldn't really be sacrifice would it?

If I understand this text to by metaphoric, knowing that in many instances I am not literally going to die, then how do I fulfill this command of Christ,
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:12-14)
Part of the answer may lie in expansion of Jesus words by His Apostle John in 1 John,
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth....

And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:16-18, 23)
These are texts that I have read a hundred times and still I am forced to wrestle with their implications. I don't believe that there is a black and white answer. Rather, in private prayer and communal conversations, we should strive to work out these truths out in our lives that we may achieve the peaceful assurance that John inserts between the two texts above.
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. (1 John 3:19-22)
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