One early church pastor wrote of Christians in his day, “We know many among ourselves who have given themselves up to bonds, in order that they might ransom others. Many, too, have surrendered themselves to slavery, that with the price which they received for themselves, they might provide food for others.” (1 Clement 55:2-6)
Christian love is truly unique. Who would give himself up to prison to obtain the release of another? The answer: Christians did. Moreover, if circumstances were similar today, Christians ought to be willing to do the same. This kind of self-sacrificial action is implied by the New Commandment of Christ himself in John 13:34-35: “Love one another.”
Christ’s command was so significant to the apostle John that he would say whenever he went to the meeting of the church in his old age, “Little children, love one another.” Asked why he repeated this so often, John replied, “It is the Lord’s command. If this alone be done, it is enough.”
John had seen this love exhibited in Christ’s own example. Christ said himself, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Not long after he said these words, Jesus died as a substitute in the place of others.
One well-known Puritan writer Matthew Henry highlights this New Commandment, “Surely we serve a good master, that has summed up all our duty in one word, and that a short word and a sweet word-love, the beauty and harmony of the universe. Loving and being loved is all the pleasure, joy, and happiness, of an intelligent being. God is love (1 Jn. 4:16), and love is His image upon the soul: where it is, the soul is well molded, and the heart fitted for every good work.”