Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
For a long while I was quite perplexed by this verse. Many, if not most, Christians consider this something to be aspired to. And the most common interpretation and application of this verse sanctions and encourages young men and women to join the military and go to war. There can be no doubt that countless cadets, enlistees, and even draftees have been inspired, motivated, and consoled by this verse. And yet, in view of the unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness toward all mankind found in the rest of the Gospel, such an interpretation and application would seem to be a misunderstanding and a misapplication of what Jesus meant. And, indeed, it is.
The verse is taken out of context. If we leave the words in the context in which they were spoken, they are in complete harmony with the rest of the Gospel.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:12-14
Jesus is raising the standard here. The greatest love that people, with their own strength, can show is to give their lives for their family and friends. But Jesus is calling us to something greater than what people can do on their own - to love as He loved and as He commanded - to love even one's enemies.