How are we to reconcile the following verses?

Jn 15:13:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

Mt 5:44,46-47:

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [..] If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

It seems to me there is a contradiction here. In Matthew, Jesus tells us that loving your friends is not that big an achievement. If that’s true, shouldn’t the verse in John read, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's enemies."?

I do realize that the passage from Matthew is from the beginning of the Gospel, and it’s said in a different context than the passage from John. Is this the reason that the texts seem inconsistent? I would then say: in the beginning of the ministry, Jesus encourages his disciples to do the extreme. In the end, the disciples are worried (e.g. Jn 14:5) they are not good enough, and Jesus reassures them. However, I don't find this a very good interpretation: I don't see why Jesus would relax his demands from mankind.

What is the reason for the supposed contradiction between these passages?

  • Perhaps Jas 2:23 "and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God." While maybe not a friend before, in going your life for someone you could certainly say you are now calling them a friend.
    – Joshua
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 10:43
  • They're not your enemy any more then, haha Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 17:18

7 Answers 7


Let's take both scriptures and look at them.

Jn 15:13:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

Mt 5:44,46-47:

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [..] If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

(taken directly from the question)

In John, Jesus says "Greater love has no one than this..." meaning there is no greater love than offering your life for that of your friend. Jesus is doing a couple of things here.

  1. Foreshadowing his sacrifice.
  2. Showing that love is an action.
  3. Telling us how to love

In Matthew, Jesus is telling us who to love, Telling us that we should love everyone including our enemies.

These two scriptures do not clash, they are not in contradiction of each other.

  • Malachi, When you say that Jesus gave instruction on how to love, do you believe that Jesus was actually saying that "No greater love has anyone than this, than to lay down his life for his enemies?" Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 4:56
  • I think that every life is precious in His eyes and that our lives should reflect His, that we should show others Jesus by our actions and not just lip service.
    – Malachi
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 10:24

The problem is that John 15:13 is out of context. If you look at it in context, what is Jesus talking about? His fellowship with one another.

NASB Translation: Note, this is shortly before he even lays down his own life for them at the cross.

12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.

Then in Mathew we see that this is answering the law: The Sermon on the Mount; The Beatitudes

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In an earlier verse in Mathew you even see him commit a similar message to the crowd.

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. 23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.

So is there two standards? No. It is the same standard, but the audience and the focus of the application is different.

Context is everything.

Because there seems to be confusion to make myself clear. One of these statements are direct instructions to the disciples, not to everyone. The other is a generalization to clarify the nature of the law.

To clarify the law side of this we see the clarity written in Romans Tools specific to Rom 12:9 - 21

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

My point isn't that you are to even worry about dieing or killing, but that is God's concern. Take care of your friends and enemies.

Romans does an excellent job of clarifying such situations where people do not understand the teachings of Christ.

But let me go one further. When it comes to the law, was any man able to fulfill the law before Christ Jesus? Even now, the law has been fulfilled, and yet you try to be the lamb that God has already supplied.

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

The purpose of the Sermon on the Mount was to make known their salvation, which was reveled later through Paul.

So I stick with my original summary, context is everything.

The following is added to make clear some discussion points from below. For someone to claim that the way is "karma", you have to throw away everything else about Christ Jesus.

Matthew 1: 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

If the way was Karma, then why would we need someone to save us? The law should be sufficient.

Lets look at what Jesus is claimed to be and what he accepts.

Matthew 16: 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

And lets look at

John 14: 1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

So if The Way is Karma, then I am the Karma, the truth, and the life? Wrong. The way from Strong's lexicon is the word ὁδός Hodos.

  1. properly
    1. way: travelled way, road; travellers way, journey, travelling
  2. metaph.
    1. course of conduct
    2. way (i.e. manner) of thinking, feeling, deciding

Jesus set the path, we follow. That is the meaning of the Way.

Also Karma has to ignore John the baptist. Now for the twisted mind that wants to call Jesus a martyr. Ignoring the fact that he was resurrected, and he knew he would be this also explains the view of him.

John 1: 29 The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

But lets look at the law itself.

Romans 3: 19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 **because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,** 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

On verse 3 there are distinctly 2 different laws being described. Works of the flesh, which cannot provide righteousness, and the law of righteousness, which is made clear in Romans 4.

Rom 4: 1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:


Apparently that the Journey of the Torah is not understood without Christ being the fulfillment of the law.

  • 3
    "out of context" is a stale and overused phrase. This phrase is used too many times to escape facing a question at its value. Sometimes, people use a verse and apply it as universal maxim. And then when a conflict is encountered, the phrase "out of context" is often deployed. But then, a verse that is usable as a universal maxim, can never be "out of context". Once you apply the phrase "out of context", you should never use that verse as universal maxim.
    – Cynthia
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 8:36
  • 2
    @BlessedGeek if you call a door a door everyday, does it stop being a door because you get tired of calling it a door? I expanded upon my post with more information to challenge your "Universal Maxim" statement.
    – Brian Webb
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 22:32
  • 1
    @e.s.kohen concerning interpreting my question, Brian is correct. I did not try to raise a question about martyrdom.
    – user2672
    Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 7:43
  • A door is a door. But when you weld it shut or plaster over it, it ceases to be a door. It may look like a door, but it is as effective as painting a door on the wall. Scientific Education is a door to future prosperity. Even if you forced a context to banish scientific education, you can never use the hypothesis of context to say the phrase "Scientific Education is a door to future prosperity" as untrue.
    – Cynthia
    Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 9:58
  • "When it comes to the law, was any man able to fulfill the law before Christ Jesus?" Yes, according to the Bible I read in Hebrew. Let me break the news to you, that the word [תורה] means "way" or in proper English "the way", the cause-effect. Or in sanskrit "karma". Your prophet is written to have said "I am karma, satya and jiwa", if translated to sanskrit. The words "torah" and "karma" is hugely misunderstood. There is nothing to fulfill - the torah is a path to reach a destination. The complete torah is the continuum intrapolated by the written torah.
    – Cynthia
    Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 10:09

John 5:13 "Greater love hath no MAN..." But God's love is greater "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. " Romans 5:8 (KJV).

He is contrasting God's love with man's love.

  • 1
    Are you saying that Jesus 1 wasn't a man 2 didn't lay down his life or 3 wasn't God? Because what you are saying with what Jesus said when applied to his own death means you are saying one of those three. Which, though I may disagree, I'm not saying you can't. Just saying you should declare it in your answer.
    – Joshua
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 11:47
  • Rom 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
    – moffy
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 23:47
  • That's a general statement saying what most people accepted as worldly wisdom v7 contrasted with God's wisdom in v8. John 5:13 is an absolute statement stating the extreme. Both passages state Godly wisdom. But your answer seems to be putting John 5:13 in the earthly wisdom category of Romans 5:7 rather than fitting with 5:8.
    – Joshua
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 0:14

The answer is to have NO enemies in your mind. To you they are lost friends you seek to reconcile. You will always seek the ministry of reconciliation. They call you enemy. They treat you as an enemy. For me it is very easy as my sister is vile to me. Yet I desire her to reconcile with me, only I will not settle for a superficial peace for that does not benefit her soul. As God requires repentance, we are too Luke 17:3, Eph. 5:1.

So Jesus said to lay down your life for your friends. Why rebuke an enemy if you think he cannot change? Rebuke is to correct. Why correct someone who you think will not change. Rebuke is love Rev. 3:19. Only God knows and is the one to judge if someone is condemned (unchangeable). 1 Tim 5 tells us not to belittle when we rebuke, but to rebuke as family!

Michael the archangel rebuked satan as family. Basically said "dad is gonna rebuke you" (which is a rebuke).

So there is no contradiction for we treat all as friends.

Let's look at the laying down. It is not pushing someone out of the way of a bus that cost us. No people thank us for this. But if we read through the book of proverbs we see those who hate us are those who despise correction, rebuke, reproof, instruction, etc.

So when is your "life on the line"? Well look at John the Baptist. He rebuked Herod publicly and it cost him his head. Jesus rebuked the religious publicly and it cost him his life. It is when you embarrass people calling them to repentance that your life or lively hood is on the line. (A humble person cannot be embarrassed, a proud person can). In Rev 3:19 Jesus says those he loves he rebukes and chastens. Did he not make a whip? Rebuke is love.

So if I see my boss belittle a co-worker and I am silent I am complicit. Why was I silent? Well, I might lose my job or be retaliated against. But the gospel message is "repent" so if I said to my boss right then and there as he did it in front of me "there is no need to belittle" (as I would a child) I have in essence said "repent" thinking he is able, removing my complicity, preventing resentment and bitterness in me Lev. 19:17-18 and the co-worker towards me (there are rare occasions they will resent you did speak up, but that is irrelevant, that is like a pharisee being offended. Offended and offence are not the same. Such have a form of battered syndrome.)

God calls all children. Not all call him Father. While we were YET sinners Christ died for all, therefore treating all to reconcile. But so few WILL.

If I insult a house you built I am insulting you. So if I insult the creation I am insulting the creator. So if I insult the devil I am insulting God. He was once called a son of God. In Jude 9 it says Mike didn't revile - the Greek word is not revile like in 1 Cor. 5 but is actually the Greek word to blaspheme, it's synonym. So the meaning is Mike didn't blaspheme God by rudely rebuking the devil but rather said "the Lord rebuke you" (which is a rebuke).

Bless your enemy by treating him as a friend (not restored without repentance, but let us not be a obstacle to their repentance). We rebuke kids because there is no COST. We fail to rebuke adults because it cost us some part of our life. By the way the Greek word is not life it is soul.

Love is unconditional Fellowship is conditional lest I enable/participate in sin

  • Welcome to BH. Please see the Tour and the Help as to the purpose and the functioning of the site. This is an hermeneutic site, the expectation being for substantial and substantiated answers not based on personal opinion.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 6:07

People regarded Zacchaeus as a sinner and enemy. Jesus bestowed friendship on him. Jesus saw him as a friend, and Zacchaeus believed in him. Jesus wants us to do likewise.

If we forgive our brother, we will be able to lay our lives down. Otherwise not.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 4:02

Question Restatement:

Jesus says that loving your friends is not that big an achievement. If that’s true, shouldn’t the verse in John read, "Greater love, (ἀγάπην) has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's enemies?"

Although Jesus said to "Love, (ἀγαπᾶτε)" your enemies, he never declared that this would, or should, or even can, transform your enemy into "your dearest friend, (φίλων)".


No, because laying down your life for your friend is more meaningful--to YOU, AND to your friend, it is a spiritual sacrifice, not simply a sacrifice birthed out of duty, or command.

Psalm 51:17, NASB: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Laying down your life for your enemies is a "Love, (agape)" birthed from will, whereas laying down your life for a friend is two forms of love: "Love, (agape)" birthed out of will AND "Love, (phileo)" birthed from emotion, (Phileo, φιλῶ, ex. John 21:15).

An "Agape" display of love, does not stir up a sense of "endearment", or "intimacy", that is found in the "Love, (phileo)" among dear friends.

Sacrificing your life for a friend, stirs up an incredible amount of emotional love, where as choosing to show love for an enemy, is purely an intellectual act.

The Cost of laying down your life for an enemy, is LESS, than laying down your life for your friend, because there is also a greater degree of selflessness--in addition to laying down your life, you are also laying down your future with your dear friend, the selfish desire to be with them, as much as they want to be with you--this is not found among enemies.


  1. "Love" in both passages, John 15:13 and Matt. 5:44, is from the same Greek word, "agape, ἀγάπην".
  2. The Greek Word for "Friends" is from the word, "φίλων", Dear Friends.
  3. The Greek Word for "Lay Down" is from the Greek word, "θῇ", and is a Metaphor, implying "Sacrificial Release", though "technically" translated as "put down/lie down"--this can include LIVING in a sacrificial manner in addition to dying for another.

For example:

  1. The text's depiction of Jesus' decision to die on the Cross, in that one moment, was no less "Loving" than the previous 9 hours or so of his trial, torture and interrogation--all of which are certainly considered greater acts of dedication and love.
  2. In war, there are often times "Noble and Great Sacrifices"--birthed from sheer force of will--to protect allies, or even people "back home" who are not--at all--"friends"--but rather, enemies--this does not necessarily involve any emotional/spiritual attachment to others.
  3. THAT Love is very different from the kind of Love displayed by a soldier, police officer, bystander: who, with a photo of their children clenched in their hand, lays down their life with the specific intent and purpose to secure a better life for the ones they are protecting--but will never see again--this is a devastating, and life-changing, display of love.

Jn 15:

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

Jesus prophesied his laying down his life for his friends on the cross.

Did Jesus die for his enemies as well as his friends?

Right on the cross, Jesus prayed in Luke 23:

34a Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

These were his enemies.

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” e When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”

Some of his enemies repented and believed. Now this centurion had become his friend. Jesus died for his enemies as well as friends. Some of his enemies repented and became his friends.

Why is the greater love not to lay down one's life for one's enemies?

Jesus did lay down his life for his enemies. Then what is wrong with saying the following?:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's enemies.

If Jesus had said this, it could be easily misinterpreted as meaning that everyone will go to heaven whether you're a friend or enemy of Jesus. Jesus wanted to focus on his repented enemies, i.e., his friends.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.