Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
When a person willingly puts their life on the line for the protection of another, or for a cause they believe in, they are revered and respected. If they lose their life, they are remembered as a hero. Their actions demonstrate a tangible expression of sacrificial love in the face of danger. The essence of heroism is protecting others and the greater good even if the cost is one’s own well-being and life.
When Jesus came to earth as a human, He gave up the perfection of heaven. He limited Himself to a fragile human body and life with the purpose of protecting us from eternal separation from God. While we don’t often refer to Jesus as a war hero—because the war is largely invisible—He courageously stepped into the fray and became the recipient of the death designated for us. Jesus surrendered His life to win the war being fought over our souls. His destruction bought our freedom.
A person’s life is his most precious possession. Consequently, to rob him of it is the greatest sin we can commit against him, while to give one’s own life on his behalf is the greatest possible expression of love for him. This, then, is the ultimate contrast: Cain’s hatred issued in murder, Christ’s love (issued) in self-sacrifice.