Scriptural Support for the Idea that Love is a Gift of Self

These scriptures must be prefaced with the observation that ψυχή here frequently means more than merely biological life, so that the phrase “give one’s life” is not just a figure of speech for dying. Instead, ψυχή represents one’s whole self. This comes out in the parallel verses where ἑαυτός is used instead.

…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life (δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ) as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life (τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ τίθησιν) for the sheep. (John 10:11)

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life (τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ θῇ) for his friends. (John 15:12–13)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself (παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν) for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up (παρέδωκεν ἑαυτὸν) for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1–2)

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us (ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἔθηκεν), and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (ὀφείλομεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀδελφῶν τὰς ψυχὰς θεῖναι). (1 John 3:16)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up (ἑαυτὸν παρέδωκεν) for her… (Ephesians 5:25)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,a who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5–11)

So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves (μεταδοῦναι…καὶ τὰς ἑαυτῶν ψυχάς), because you had become very dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:8)

The Great Paradox

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death (οὐκ ἠγάπησαν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτῶν ἄχρι θανάτου). (Revelation 12:11)

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life (ἔτι τε καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἑαυτοῦ), he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

Whoever loves his life (ὁ φιλῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ) loses it, and whoever hates his life (ὁ μισῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ) in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)

Whoever finds his life (ὁ εὑρὼν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ) will lose it, and whoever loses his life (ὁ ἀπολέσας τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ) for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39)

For whoever would save his life (ὃς…θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (ὃς…ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ) for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33)