No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
Tragedy struck close to home this week. At the college my daughter attends, there was an active shooter situation in which two brave law enforcement officers paid the ultimate price with the sacrifice of their lives in protecting the students and faculty on that campus. Several days have passed since this event, but the impact and effects have only begun to be felt. Many have wondered at the crisis in such a small, close-knit community and how such a horrific thing could occur. Evil is present and lurking in this world, and nothing is off-limits to the enemy of our souls.Initially, shock was the immediate reaction, but as time elapses from the event, humble gratitude that can never be repaid or adequately expressed abounds.
Yet, light, God’s light, is always present in the darkness. Two men exemplified the words of Jesus found in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (KJV). Most run from danger. Many mock the men in blue. Yet, as students sat in their classrooms on that Tuesday afternoon, two men, two officers, approached danger head-on. They stepped into the line of fire to protect those students and faculty who were unaware of the threat lurking right outside the windows. Only our Father in heaven knows how many lives were saved by these officers. These officers were well-loved by their college community. As I have ruminated on the events of this week, I keep coming back to the choice they made that day. I doubt they knew what the outcome of their day would be, that the suspicious individual they approached would turn and open fire on them. Yet, I suspect they would do it all over again, had they known. They would have chosen to lay down their lives to protect the community, just like Jesus.
Scripture verses like John 15:13 are easy to quote, yet many of us would not truly expect that such a thing would ever be required of us. Jesus is our ultimate example of sacrificing Himself for the good and salvation of others. Lately, I have been reading books set during World War II, books that highlight the willingness of others to put their lives at risk in order to provide safety and refuge to the Jews during that time. Prior to the tragedy this week, I found myself contemplating whether or not I would have the courage to make the same choices. Would I be willing to die to save the life of another, just like Officers Painter and Jefferson?
While I may never be placed in a situation that requires me to choose between my life or saving the life of another, daily I have the opportunity and the challenge to make a choice between what I want or what I can sacrifice for the good of others. I can be kind or I can be cruel. I can put myself first or put others first. I can be patient or I can be rude. I can be distracted or I can be present in the moment. I can offer my time or I can be too busy. I can live me-centered or I can be upward and outward focused. Often, the easy choice is the safe path. I can stay within my safe perimeter or I can step out of my comfort zone. Proverbs 28:1 tells us this, “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing them, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Oh that I may be bold as a lion.
Jesus laid down His life for me, for you, that we may receive in His eternal inheritance. Jesus carried our sins with Him to the cross and paid the penalty of death so that we may live for Him and with Him forever. Jesus calls us to imitate Him, to be like Him, to follow Him, which means do as He did. Lay down our lives, even in small ways, for others. I long to honor my Savior, and this week, honor the legacy of the heroes who died protecting others, by being kind and dying a thousand deaths to myself for the good of others. Their sacrifice will never be in vain.
Please join me in prayer for the fallen officers, their families, and the college community and surrounding area: “Blessed be the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in our affliction, so that we may know and be able comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5