No one has greater love than that they lay down their lives for their friends.John 15:13
The final two steps in our ladder go well beyond the simple attitudes of acceptance and respect, however important those aspects of love might be. Deference itself is a powerful weapon and antidote to the divisive tendencies of haughty tribalism. The next rung – that of defense – calls us to an even more profound offering of our identities to the grace of unity. To defend my brothers and sisters means not only a Samaritan-like concern for their welfare, but a willingness to speak on their behalf, to identify with them as beloved companions, and to justify their place in the Kingdom of God.
It is often the case that when Christians are truly looking to defend their fellow-believers there will be opposition, slander, calumny. To rise to their defense when we see our friends subject to such enmity can be truly costly. However, in this age, where the world increasingly denigrates the gospel, standing together is more crucial and valuable than ever. And yet, hatred of God and of the people of God will forge even greater unity among his children. The more we are one, the greater will be our joy, our hope, our praise, and our thanksgiving. As much as we fail and fall, as little as we know and understand, still we are confident that the Lord himself will complete the good work that he has begun.
Lord, just as your son Jesus Christ was ready to defend his disciples despite his own safety, give us the courage to step in whenever we see our brothers and sisters under duress because of unfair criticism, slander, or persecution. Help us to identify with them and do whatever we can to defend them and protect their good name. Amen.