By this we come to know (progressively to recognize, to perceive, to understand) the [essential] love: that He laid down His [own] life for us; and we ought to lay [our] lives down for [those who are our] brothers [in Him].1 John 3:16 amp
I have read or heard this (or a version of it) so many times but I’ve never really thought about it past a physical sense. I always took it at face value–basically that it was saying I should die for or to protect my fellow Christian. But that is a get-to-heaven mindset. Instead, I can daily lay my life down for my spiritual family, without dying.
I can do that by letting my wants and selfish desires go in favor of theirs. I don’t always have to get my way. I don’t always have to get or do what I want. I don’t always have to be right, or insist on my rightness when I am. It is okay to let go of my ways in favor of someone else’s. If me being right or me getting my way is going to cause a rift between me and another then I need to let it go.
Now there is a difference between arguing my point and following God’s way. If I know that God calls things to be a certain way then it is up to me to follow His decree. It is not my job to make sure someone else does. I can point them in the direction of God, but it is not up to me to drag them to Him. It is God’s job to change hearts, not mine. In fact, me interfering by arguing will do the opposite of changing hearts–it will harden them. It is better that I follow God’s word and let my actions talk than my mouth. In being an example for Christ, as He was an example for us, then we can part the way to Him.
Another thing is that John says that this is a progressive learning process. We won’t get it right one-hundred percent of the time. We are in a constant state of learning. And honestly, how we lay our lives aside for one may not be how we need to lay it aside for another.
How did Christ lay His life down, apart from dying for our sins? He followed the Father. He communed with the Father. He spoke the Father’s words. He did the tasks that the Father set before Him. He loved and cared for those who did not love or care for Him back.