“Greater love has on one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13
There’s an old story, which I’m sure you’ve heard, about the starfish that washed up on the beach during high tide only to be left there to die after the tide went out. A boy was walking along the beach tossing the starfish back into the sea one at a time when a man approached him. “Son,” the man ridiculed, “there are thousands of starfish on this beach, surely you don’t think you can throw enough of them back to make a difference!” Without ever so much as looking up the boy picked up another starfish and sailed it back into the water. “I made a difference to that one,” he replied.
This past week I had the opportunity to witness two friends, one being my wife, gather at the bedside of another friend about to undergo very serious surgery. One had traveled great distance to be there, and both had put other matters in their lives on hold to be with, care for, and pray for their friend. Nor were they the only ones, for many others had gathered in the hospital waiting area to offer prayers and support. It occurred to me as I observed this situation and participated in it to some degree, that this is what it means to lay down one’s life for a friend.
Often when we hear the words “laying down one’s life” we interpret it to mean some sort of heroic act like rushing into a burning house to rescue a small child, or a soldier in battle falling on a grenade to save his comrades. Such are for sure acts of laying down one’s life for another. But so are the less dramatic things we do to help and support someone in need – stopping to aid a motorist in distress on the side of the road, offering a helping hand to a neighbor, speaking a word of encouragement to a struggling co-worker, or being at the bedside of a dear friend facing major medical issues.
Wisdom teaches not to let ourselves become overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s problems; for no one is capable of single-handedly making a difference. But we do make a difference when we lay down our life for a friend going through a difficult time. Greater love has no one than this.