What does it mean to lay down your life for a friend? What a great question and we are glad you asked! Let’s look into history and the Bible for some great answers.
Jesus Took a Bullet for Us
He was wounded for our transgressions; he (Jesus) was bruised for our iniquities…
each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Literally taking a bullet for someone is to place yourself between the shooter and their victim.
On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. fired a bullet at President Ronald Reagan. A Secret Service Agent named Tim McCarthy stepped in front of him and took that bullet to his chest. McCarthy had an unusual job and did what they trained him. He survived–but that wasn’t a guaranteed outcome. He had prepared himself and wounded himself to protect the president.
Late in the year of 2011, a band of Somali pirates captured an aid worker, Jessica Buchanan. They held her captive for several months but during her captivity she developed a serious health condition. U.S. Special Operation Forces discovered her location and planned a rescue mission. They secured her release from her captors and at one point the forces determined she was in danger from gunfire. To protect her, several of the Navy Seals laid their body on hers until the danger had passed. If the enemy tried to shoot her, the Seals would take the bullet. As part of their job, they endangered their own lives to shield the one under their protection.
The Agents who protect the president and the Navy Seals personnel are a rare breed of men. They’ve committed themselves to take a bullet–literally!–for someone they don’t even know.
“Rarely for a righteous man will one die. Yet perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:7-8).”
What Does it Mean to Lay Down Your Life for a Friend
Many, most, people would give their lives to save a family member. But what does it mean to lay down your life for a friend?
In the verse above Paul’s drawing a distinction between a righteous person and a good person. The righteous will always do what’s legally required, but the good go beyond what is officially right. They look out for the person’s best interests. They have empathy and act towards others with forgiveness. Metaphorically, they have a heart of gold.
Singer/songwriter Angelina Jordan performs her songs barefoot. The backstory is that when she was six years old and living in the Mideast, she met a girl about her own age. This girl didn’t have any shoes. Doing what a good person does, Angelina gave her shoes to that barefoot girl. Then she went beyond that and determined to perform without shoes until every child has shoes. Her actions show the perfect contrast between a righteous person and a good person.
But Jesus added another dimension of goodness. He died for us while we were His enemies. How many times have any of us done anything to lift up an enemy?
“When they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:33-34).”
Note: When Stephen was dying, he prayed the same words for his killers (Acts 7:60).
The usual response to our enemy is to do anything we can to weaken or destroy them. After all, isn’t that what they’re trying to do to us?
“It was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I (Jesus) say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:43-45).”
Humanly, this command is beyond difficult. When a person only has an earthly perspective, this makes no sense. When I was a child a person close to me told me this approach just does not work!
But it does work. The other person does notice, and it convicts them and hopefully helps them see God’s love through our actions. And the other person isn’t the only one who notices:
“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink
…and the Lord will reward you (Proverbs 25:21-22).”
Jesus Laid Down His Life For Us
He doesn’t reward us with salvation; we can’t earn Jesus’ salvation. God will reward us; sometimes, in some way in our earthly life. But certainly, in eternity. It takes the eyes of faith to accept a reward promised outside of this life. And the good person will see that the good response is the blessed response.
Because they’re convicted, the other person may respond in anger, as Stephen’s killers did. Hopefully, that’s not the case. But we can’t be responsible for how our enemy responds. We just love them like Jesus loved us–however they respond.
Jesus took the bullet for all of us, died on the cross, and rose from the dead. Because He did, He offers salvation free of cost to those–formerly His enemies–who believe in His Name. The good person believes in Jesus and rests in His salvation.
We invite you to watch the GREAT NEWS FOR YOU video below to find out how you can receive this free gift of salvation from God.