It has been five days since the senseless shooting of theatre goers in Aurora, Colorado. Usually after a terrifying incident like this one, you hear stories about the heroic acts of people helping others, so I was surprised to read the story of a young man who set his crying infant son on the floor, and ran out of the theatre, leaving behind not only his son, but his girlfriend and a four year old daughter as well. He then fled the theatre, got in his car and drove away. His girlfriend borrowed a phone, presumably well after the chaos had settled, and called him. They were later reunited at the hospital where he proposed, and she accepted. (I don’t pretend to know any of them or the situation well enough to understand their motivations, but based on the facts I have, I would not have said yes.)
Thankfully, this young man seemed to be the exception; there were in fact heroes there too. According to the reports, a complete stranger protected that abandoned fiancée and her daughter. Several other young men gave up their lives to protect their girlfriends from the flying bullets. The girlfriends all survived. The comments that I have heard, all suggest that protecting loved ones is what real men do. There are probably many men who have told their sweethearts that they would take a bullet for them, but I don’t know how many thought that they might really have to do it one day.
Jesus said that there is no greater love than to give up your life for a friend. (John 15:13) He knew when He said it that He would be giving up his life within a day. His purpose for coming to this earth in human form was to give up His life so that we wouldn’t have to give up ours. Yes, we will one day all give up our earthly bodies, but they are only the wrapping of our souls. We can live eternally, because Jesus was willing to die in our place. He commanded us to love others in the same way that He loves us. Just so that there is no ambiguity, that instruction is repeated several times in John 15:9-17:
- We are told to remain in His love, (John 15:9) and we will do that by obeying His commandments. (John 15:10)
- Then He clarifies that His commandment is to love others just as He has loved us. (John 15:12)
- We demonstrate that we are His friends by following His commands, (John 15:14) and once again He repeats that His command for us is to love other people. (John 15:17)
We won’t all be required to demonstrate our love for someone by dying in their place, but we can still make other people a priority ahead of ourselves. We can lay down our lives in service to others while we're living.