For what would one be willing to give his or her life? Both Hebrew scripture and the New Testament pose that question... as do literature and theater, philosophy and romance. Is there anything (or anyone) that means more than life to us, for which (or for whom) we would lay down our very own lives?
If the answer is “No,” then at some level we do not know the beauty of passion (in the best and purest sense of the word). Unless we have at some point loved something or someone even more than life, then perhaps we have never fully loved. How many, for love of country, have laid down their own lives? How many on the mission field have refused to flee in times of danger or oppression because their commitments to God and the people they served were so strong? Think of medical workers in Liberia who now risk their own health to try and heal others? Think of parents, spouses, and partners who would in an instant lay down their own lives to save the life of one whom they love.
On the night before He was crucified, Jesus said to his disciples: “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down your life for your friends.” (John 15:13) And then He went out to endure the Cross. There had been ample opportunities to escape. There had been advice from friends to avoid Jerusalem at such a risky moment. But the mission that drove Him would not allow him to turn away. For Jesus felt that would not be merely turning away from a theological Truth, but instead a turning away from the people who needed him most (“to lay down your life for your friends”).
Is there a cause for which we would give our own lives, something with such grand and deep significance that it would be worthy of all we have to offer? Is there a person whose life means more than life to us? I am not suggesting that any of us give our lives in a literal sense. I am suggesting that when we discover something or someone of that importance, something or someone we can love with that degree of selfless passion, then (and perhaps only then) do we become fully alive. It is too easy to sleepwalk through our mortal journey. Life is for those who fully and freely know how to love.
Now old desire doth in his death bed lie;
And young affection gapes to be his heir,
That fair for which love groan'd for and would die,
With tender Juliet match'd, is now not fair.
Now Romeo is beloved and loves again,
Alike bewitched by the charm of looks.
But to his foes supposed he must complain,
And she steal love's sweet bait from fearful hooks.