Jesus Christ displayed the most incredible act of love in the history of the world. This very act, from God Himself, Jesus Christ, reveals to us what love truly is. And our Lord Jesus commands us, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
The Apostle John explains this to us again in 1 John. He says,
"Hereby we have known love, because He laid down His life for us: and we are continually indebted to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and gazes upon/analyzes that his brother has need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" [1 Jn 3:16-17]
John says we are indebted to lay down our lives for the brethren. Because of what Jesus did for us, we are obligated to lay our lives down for the brethren: to give up our lives and our desires and serve Jesus’ body whenever we have opportunity. This is the natural reaction to what Jesus has done for us.
To see such an enormous and profound act of love, an act that will never be fully unfolded in all of eternity, but with each new moment our Lord will unveil to us another blessed aspect of it, to see this high and lofty love must result in action. Paul said “the love of Christ constraineth us.” The word here for constrain is in the present indicative, meaning it is continuous action. And the word itself means to press together, to confine, to urge, to impel. Paul is saying that he continually has pressing/urging from Jesus Christ’s love to serve the body of Christ. This is what we also should be experiencing. Jesus Christ’s display of love should be so visible in our hearts and minds, that it constantly presses us to action; so much so that you could say we are obligated to respond to it.
Clearly Jesus’ actions toward us were and are so great that they require action. John tells us, in accordance with Jesus’ command, that the action is to likewise lay our lives down for the brethren. So what exactly does it mean to “lay down our lives for the brethren?”
John tells us: “my little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” We are to love in deed and in truth. And to love in deed and in truth is to perform tangible acts of useful kindness, as John gave allusion to in verse 18. Whoever has tangible goods that are useful for a need and gazes upon his brother to analyze a situation and then comes to the conclusion that his brother has that need — if that person, having the solution to the need, shuts up his bowels toward his brother, the love of God does not abide in him. He is a liar. On the contrary, we are to give up our lives, loving the brethren in deed an in truth in imitation of Jesus Christ.
Jesus gave up His life for us. He came down from heaven and saved us from Hell, offering us eternity with Himself. Surely, we can give up our worldly goods and time for our brothers and sisters, which is very small in comparison. And truly this is a mark of true faith. James writes,
"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." [Jam 2:14-17]