Our scripture this morning is John 15:9-17.
I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
More than anything, Jesus wanted us to love God and each other. In this passage He gives His disciples a final lesson on this, saying “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (v. 13). He was about to do this for all of God’s children.
Today as we remember those who gave their lives in defense of their friends and even people they didn’t know, we see Christ’s love at work. They knew the danger but were willing to say “Here I am Lord, send me”. Good people over the centuries have stood with faith and courage to protect others.
Jesus doesn’t condone violence as a way to achieve selfish goals but defending those who are oppressed is part of His love. His sacrifice for us was the ultimate gift, going to the cross in order to save us from sin and death. We are called to go in His name to stand against evil and bring others back to a full relationship with God.
We may not face earthly combat, but we are in the battle against Satan every day. Paul calls us to “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-11). Through His strength and love we can be part of the Lord’s army of the faithful, ready to serve Him always.
Gracious God, we are saddened by the violence that plagues our world. Help us to be peacemakers when we can, but to stand strong against the forces of evil we encounter, that all may be saved by Christ’s sacrifice for us. Amen.