Week 6 Day 3: Laying Down Our Lives

“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another."
I John 3:16

Laying Down Our Lives
We're made strong by the model of self-spending love – that ‘let-it-all-go’ kind of love of Jesus – so that we can go out into the world and practice the same kind of love.

-Br. Keith Nelson


From the First Letter of John: "We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another." So love lays down life. This is the love that we see in the Cross. This is a love that is so deep, it's really beyond words – this love that Jesus had for us, enough to lay down his life for us, and an invitation to do the same for one another.  So what does this mean for us? I think that it means that in communities of love to whom we've made faithful commitments, I think that that means practicing vulnerability with each other.

There's a brilliant researcher and author, Brené Brown, who defines vulnerability as "risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure". We lay down our life when we practice those things in relationship with one another. We lay down our life when we apologize to someone when we know that we're wrong, even if we don't want to apologize. We lay down our life by volunteering to do something that we know needs doing; even if we think we might be bad at it, we risk. We lean into the uncertainty in love in communities to whom we've made those faithful commitments as a way of practicing, so that when we go out into the world, when we testify to the love of God in word and action, we've had a kind of dress rehearsal for that within the Christian community, within your marriage or partnership, within your family, within your spiritual friendships. We're made strong in that love by the model of that self-spending love – that ‘let-it-all-go’ kind of love of Jesus – so that we can go out into the world and practice the same kind of love.

Vulnerability is difficult. I know that in my own life. I'm sure that you know that. So we need communities of love to ground us, to practice that, so that we can be prepared to do that in ever widening circles in the world as a testimony to the one who loved us that much. So, a practice of prayer that might go with this: When you find yourself in that place where you feel called to lay down your life in whatever way, large or small, you might think of composing a short prayer, a laying-down-my-life prayer, that maybe you just breathe in and breathe out and say internally, “This is love. This is love laying down its life.” When someone does that for you, when you see love laying down its life for you, have a prayer that allows you to receive that in return, to practice that mutual giving and receiving of love laying down its life.

We invite you to share your answer in the comments below or using #MeetingJesus


  1. Annmarie Trejo on April 26, 2019 at 08:17

    Recently I retired from nursing. It wasn’t planned but I did so to help my husband who lost a leg. I am very proud of him. He has responded wonderfully by marching on in life. Nothing holds him back.
    I am so happy to be retired and I thank God I am able to do this. I am spending lots of time with my grandchildren, they bring such happiness to my life. Also getting to know my children better and helping them with any problems they bring to me.
    I have been given a second chance to enjoy my life and family and I am very grateful for this time I have.
    People say why dont yoy spend this time on yourself but how lonely I would be and I would miss out on the happiness my family gives me.

  2. Jeanne DeFazio on February 16, 2019 at 10:45

    Thanks for your reminder to keep on keeping on.

  3. Dorothy Wilson on March 25, 2018 at 06:59

    Today my daughter & I donated our blood, to save a life. . I feel this is another example of laying down ones life for another. Thank you God for gift of life, that we are able to share our blood .

  4. marta engdahl on March 22, 2018 at 20:42

    Marvelous passage and comments! I believe “dying to self” can mean getting out of our own way or the mystical union of God within us, so that we may exemplify God’s presence in the world. Sometimes, it takes me quite a while to do that, to re-focus on the Light and Love of God that we should project into the world. Doing that in small steps may mean that we do not have to do it in big, self-sacrificial steps such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he prepared for his hanging. I find that the more I read spiritual literature, keep my Bible open (and refreshed in my mind and soul) to remind me of Jesus’ life and words, and focus on the other’s needs and less on me, the more I am able to convey God/Jesus’s presence in the world. Maybe it is just a small step, but it has taken me a life-time to get here . . . . . .

  5. William Winston on March 22, 2018 at 00:48

    Over the decades, I’ve heard the quote from St. Francis – authentic or not – used as a bye for actually talking about our faith. We are not in the overwhelming Italian Roman Catholic context that Francis was and a lot of folks would never connect our acts of generosity or of sacrifice as deriving from out holy Christian faith. Today requires some means of communicating that the good we do is compelled by the prayers and studies of our holy Faith. We do all sorts of good things, with no intention of spreading the Gospel, and that’s well and good. But if we intend to be that Fifth Gospel, we have to make our inspiration/motivation clear because there is nothing in our culture that connects doing/being good/nice/generous with the holy Christian faith. In fact, for too many people in the USA, “Christianity” is connected to “evangelical/fundamentalist” narrowness and a judgmental, condemning worldview.

    • April Baily on March 24, 2018 at 20:40

      All too true I’m afraid. And, thank you for pointing it out. Like many, I hope and pray that my life exemplifies the teachings of Christ; I do my best to live my life in that way. But I need to be more verbal about it. That’s hard, as I’m entirely too afraid that others will think I’m a fundamentalist. I almost hate to call myself a Christian for that reason. I prefer to say I’m a follower of The Way, a follower of Christ. I will be more verbal about it. I have to be!

  6. David John Drew on March 21, 2018 at 21:04

    Lord my Savior,

    Today, at work, we were instructed in ‘Active Shooter Training.’ It forced me to consider what I would do if a hostile person, armed with a deadly weapon entered our facility with the intention of taking as many lives as possible – and though we are told to ‘run, hide or fight’ – to preserve our own life under all circumstances, I think I would still endeavor, with your Spirit and Power to protect my friends, colleagues and residents to the best of my abilities, and even, if it came down to it, to give my life in an effort to save another – whoever they may be. I cannot see any other way Lord. There are times when we cannot simply run away, nor find a safe and suitable hiding place and wait for the maelstrom to pass and things return to normality (if they ever do!) No, we must in such times face the evil, to confront it face to face, and come to terms with deepest fears within and around us… and overcome them with your help.

    Lord of Justice and Truth,

    Many of your beloved and devoted servants have thought likewise – and today I recall and commemorate the thoughts, faith and actions of Saint Maximillian Kolbe, the Franciscan priest who was arrested by the gestapo in WWII and imprisoned in Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. St Maximillian elected himself, volunteered to face the punishment unjustly decreed on Francis Gajowniczek – replacing him and suffering death by starvation. Lord, Saint Maximillian, by his actions saved the life of this humble Polish soldier and father who lived to see the end of the war, who was liberated from Auschwitz and returned home to his family. What greater sacrifice than to give one’s own life for another?

    Lord of Mercy,

    Give me the strength to endure all conditions as they may come, and persevere in faith for the benefit of others who may be weak, poor or sick.

    Let me draw my prayer to a close by repeating some words of St. Maximillian;

    “The most deadly poison of our time is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise him to the greatest extent of our powers… What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict… Let us not forget that Jesus not only suffered, but also rose in glory; so, too, we go to the glory of the Resurrection by way of suffering and the Cross… and in all things let us not forget to repeat with the Lord Jesus: “Not my will but Thine be done…”

    + Amen

    Pax Christi – David

  7. Beulah Walcott on March 21, 2018 at 07:11

    Beulah on 03 20 2018 at 9:56 p.m.

    Thank you. It is my humble feeling that there is no other and more endearing love for God than to be the eyes of a blind spouse.

  8. Claudia Booth on March 21, 2018 at 05:29

    As a medical professional who works in an administrative role serving the elderly, on one hand and caregivers on the other, my occupation requires giving of myself/ laying down my life in so many ways. A sensitive and intuitive type, I often find myself in situations where I am being bullied. If I could remember to open myself to union with God in Christ, I would be able to negotiate this more effectively, instead of being diminished by it. I can identify with the cross. Fortunately, my relationship with the Elderly and their caregivers also connects me to Easter. I know what it is to lay down one’s life. The resurrection is harder to grasp.

  9. Bruce Dutton on March 21, 2018 at 02:49

    I’m grateful for all the work you brothers have put into producing these reflections; as I’ve read, reflected and prayed I’ve felt nurtured and uplifted. Thank you.
    Would you mind if i gently pointed out to brother Nicholas that, as much as I love and resonate with the quote in today’s reading (in fact, I’ve used it myself!), there is no evidence that i can find of it being an authentic quote from Francis of Assisi. Wikipedia has an extensive section on citings of the quote (the earliest they find is 1990) and somewhat similar quotes from earlier sources. 🙂

  10. James Rowland on March 21, 2018 at 01:54

    I have to admit my love of mystery novels has gotten in the way of my well-intentioned Lenten book list. Now that Lent is coming to a close and we are getting close to Holy Week I hope I am almost back on track and somehow I suspect God is OK with my brief vacation from the planned Lenten practices.

  11. Maery Jo S. on March 20, 2018 at 23:20

    I do not believe that we testify by preaching scripture unless that is your calling. I believe that the average person testifies by the way they live their lives: feeding the hungary, helping the poor have better lives, treating everyone wit love and compassion.

  12. James on March 20, 2018 at 20:42

    Wonderful devotion and comments today. Thank-you everyone!

    To live is Christ. To die is gain. It’s easy for me to understand Paul’s message when it comes to living for Christ. And I always felt that to die, the gain would be seeing my Lord and Saviour in Heaven. The Holy Spirit has now had me look at Paul’s statement from another perspective. It’s about dying to self. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

    To have Christ live in me is indeed great gain. I can now shed all my earthly burdens and take on Christ’s yoke (for it is light) and strive toward making my sphere of influence a kinder, gentler, and more Godly place.

    • Bishop Hollywood on March 20, 2018 at 22:20

      It’s been said,it’s one thing to say you love someone but another thing to show it. Action always speaks louder than words. No matter what religion you follow, the basis of the religion is the same, love.

  13. Ed Greene on March 20, 2018 at 19:59

    I was puzzled to hear, “When Jesus walked the earth in his UNIFORM …” I’m glad you provide a transcript.

  14. Rhode on March 20, 2018 at 19:27

    Most of us are born with the desire for self preservation. Growing older we learn some actions have serious risks yet are worth the action: driving a car, flying on a plane etc. Perhaps, when I first knowingly believed in Christ I hoped to gain more peace and love,… less of the Cross, less of the risks. Self sacrifice is not something I willingly choose…though perhaps for my family, maybe close friends or church …not so much for someone who hates or hurts me. Yet, loving and doing good to people who despise us is exactly what Christ said would set us apart from everyone else and would bring honor to his name. The world would know us by our love. Has that happened in 2000 years? In my own life? How have I really loved Jesus? or do I love the IDEA of Jesus…am I willing to love, sit down and eat with, lay down my life for people I really do not like? I pray I can be honest with myself, as God already knows me as I am. I pray He will love me through this struggle to see clearly and participate in the needs of His kingdom. I pray we as followers of Christ seek to draw closer and give access to the Holy Spirit who yearns to help us accomplish God’s purposes through us. Thank you for this lenten journey.

  15. Bryan Cook on March 20, 2018 at 18:12

    To be honest, I am conflicted . I enjoy the things I have worked hard to get or been given the “luck-of-the-draw” to have. Going to an extreme of giving all of my worldy goods is something I would not do except in an extreme circumstance. Yet, I know that I would risk my life more readily. I guess it is all a matter of moderation.

    Agatha said it very well : I can start by praying about emptying myself, as a metaphor for dying, for giving up the ways that I have always done things and take risks for my faith. I can also start giving in small ways…..this last year, for example, I have brought a food bank package each time I do the family shopping. I do gigs at old folk’s homes, alzheimer’s homes and recovery houses.

    I must be open to the opportunities to serve which God puts before me and has given me the talents to do. I ask Him to grant me the serenity to make the right choices.

  16. John David Spangler on March 20, 2018 at 17:29

    As with Brother Nicholas, this is one of my favorite quotes: “At all times preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words”. I confess that I am not very good using words and join Keith Aldred in asking God’s help to reflect His love.

  17. Susan on March 20, 2018 at 16:57

    Lord, use me. I know that in my flesh I will see God!

  18. Agatha Nolen on March 20, 2018 at 15:35

    It is a powerful thought: to be willing to die for someone. I would venture to guess that most of us who are reading this meditation on the internet today will never be asked to die for another person. However, Br. Nicholas brings this Scripture into focus today by asking us to “learn how to empty ourselves of all that gets in the way of fuller union with God.”

    When I pray about emptying myself, it becomes a metaphor for dying, for giving up the ways that I have always done things, and as Br. Keith encouraged us yesterday: to take risks for our faith.

    I doubt I’ll ever be in position to die for another, but I can lay down my current life and embrace a new, more fuller life in Christ, spreading the good news to others.

  19. Keith Aldred on March 20, 2018 at 14:14

    May we find how we can respond to the needs of others and act accordingly. Help us Lord to reflect you love.

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