What is the ultimate act of love?
It is clear what we culturally believe in movies: remember “City of Angels”? Seth, the angel, gives up his angelic nature and takes on humanity and death for just a moment with Maggie. The movies John Q, The Road to Perdition, Pay it Forward, X-Men, The Matrix all tell the same basic story: one’s love for another (or the whole world – like Neo in the Matrix) drives him to give up his life for the other’s well being.
When men in America ask for permission of their girlfriends’ parents to marry their daughter, part of the expression of undying love and devotion is, “I will always put myself between her and danger; I would die for her”.
Sacrificial death. The Japanese capitalized on it with the kamikaze pilots during WWII. “Divine Wind” is the literal translation of the word kamikaze, and is built on the unifying belief in the culture which unites Samurai and Bushido codes alike: Loyalty and honor until death. The greatest act of devotion to the country was to give one’s life.
The jihad: Service to God. “The struggle” as it directly translates – either internally to the fulfillment of religious duty or externally against the enemies. The greatest jihad according to Ibn Habbaan (author of Book of Jihad) is “the one in which your horse is slain and your blood is spilled.” Death. For God’s honor, or the furthering of Islam.
Around the world, in various religions and in various cultures, we unanimously agree that the greatest act of love and devotion is to give one’s life for another.
God is the creator of the the universe. He established natural orders and He defined love because He is love (1 John 4.8, 16). If God created us to understand love and placed that intrinsic understanding of love within human nature, then wouldn’t it follow that God would express Himself in the same manner by which He defined love?
Have you ever thought of the absurdity of Almighty God, the one who spoke all things into existence, humbling Himself to take on the form of man, and submitting Himself to human cruelty to the point of death (Phil 2.5-8)?
Some people believe that God is limited. He is the giant clock maker who set all things in motion, and when pieces of His creation break, He has to jump in a fix them. He does not know the future, He does not know what will happen, He is reactionary. But God defined love, and it was His plan from before He spoke the world into existence, to redeem sinful human beings through His own death.
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.“
– Rev 13.8
Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world. Not after however long Adam and Eve lived in Eden and then fell. Since the moment God said, “Let there be light” (Gen 1.3). And the plan was so settled that when Adam and Eve did sin, God told them He had a plan (while cursing the Devil in the snake’s body):
The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
– Gen 3.14-15
Jesus is the seed of woman – the Devil bruised His heal by killing Him on the cross, but Jesus crushed His head when he defeated death through His resurrection.
God established the order of creation: Mankind in need of a savior, the retribution for sin being found in blood alone (Heb 9.22), and Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for the sin of the believers. Redemption. God could have set up another route to salvation. He could have created a world in which there is no sin. He actually did create a world in which there is no rebellion from His ways: Heaven! The angels long to look into the mystery of salvation (1 Peter 1.12). Because they are in a setting in which they are in God’s presence, they are worshiping Him continually, and they do not understand God’s plan of redemption experientially. But they understand the magnitude and glory of it, and that is why all Heaven rejoices at the salvation of one soul (Luke 15.7).
But here on Earth God has a perfect plan of redemption by the blood of Jesus Christ:
But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
– Is 53.10
God, who is love, defined what love was, and then acted it out. He loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life (John 3.16).
And the only response to such great love is to die to our flesh daily, take up our cross and follow Him (Matt 16.24). If God would die for us, and offer us eternity with Him, what less can we give back to Him than to offer our lives back?
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
– Rom 12.1-2