Living, and dying, for others

Compassion and obedience are not just for this life only.

Compassion and obedience are not just for this life only.

John 10:14-15, 17-18 – I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. … For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”

In teaching his disciples of how he is to be likened to a good shepherd, Yeshua reveals how God had provided him the authority to not only lay his life down for the sheep, but to take it back up again. With this obvious reference to the resurrection, we gain a small but tremendously powerful insight into the compassion and obedience of the Son of God to his Father.

Yeshua’s connection with God was so close that the bond of obedience surpassed life itself. Yeshua had received the command of God that he would have the ability to take up his life on the other side of the grave. This demonstrated a huge measure of trust and confidence that Yeshua placed in his Father. He was to demonstrate a compassion so extreme on behalf of his brothers that it would cost him his life.

Yet he was to trust in the resurrection on the other side, and not for himself, but that God’s purpose would be completed through his resurrection. Yeshua was not simply trusting God that he would be restored to life for his own benefit, but that he was being restored to life for the benefit of others. He died for others and was restored to life for others. Everything about the death and resurrection of Yeshua was for others; it had nothing to do with his own personal survival for himself.

We don’t understand this principle enough. We struggle to grasp an obedience to God that is so complete that it willingly succumbs not only to death on behalf of others, but to continued service for others on the other side. That is what compassion looks like to God. It does not have any selfish ambition whatsoever, and yet when it is accomplished, God provides every honor and glory upon that individual.

I believe we have erred when we look to God for our own continued survival, that hoped-for eternal life, based on the fact that we believed in him and served him to the best of our ability during this life. Then we hope to enjoy peace and security for eternity, a kind of spiritual retirement allowing us to enjoy the privileges gained for sacrifices made during this life.

But this is not the message of the gospel. The good news of the kingdom is that we serve God and accomplish his purpose here and now, and we serve God there and accomplish his purpose then and there. Believing in God should never be about ourselves or our personal security. If we are following the example of our Messiah, it should always be about others; we should be constantly laying our lives down on behalf of others, dying to ourselves over and over again.

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

This is what it means to be a living sacrifice. It is a dichotomy of two contradictory principles: a sacrifice is to die yet somehow remains alive. The believing life is one of paradox: living in a kingdom that exists in eternity, yet is present here and now; dying to ourselves yet living for God; existing in a world of darkness yet being a light to those around us. We are reconcilers of opposites, peacemakers of things that are at war with one another. Just like our Messiah obeyed in death and life, we are to remain obedient in dying to ourselves and living for him. The life that feeds on the resurrection power of the Messiah is a life of obedience and compassion.

1 John 3:14, 16 – We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. … By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

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