Life, Hope & Truth

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Laying Down One’s Life

If there’s any ray of light to come out of the tragic Oklahoma tornadoes, it is in the stories of several heroic schoolteachers who are being credited with saving the lives of their students by literally lying down on top of these children to shield them from the deadly, flying debris.

Amazingly, the children and their parents are able to thank these teachers in person, because none of them were killed. As a parent, it’s hard to imagine the depth of feeling you would have to look into the eyes of someone and try to adequately express your gratitude for her willingness to give her life to save your child. And in a world where we so often are beaten down with the steady stream of news stories about so much hatred and brutality toward others, it is truly inspiring to read of this type of selfless love. One of the first responders interviewed told the story of how they pulled a car off a teacher who had three little kids underneath her. In tears he barely choked out the words, “Good job, teach!”

“Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus once stated, “than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” In that concept we see something both marvelous—and limiting—about our human capacity. We marvel when we see someone literally lay down his or her life for someone else, because it so rarely happens. We may even wonder, “Could I—would I—do the same in such circumstances?”

But there’s something about Jesus’ words that makes us think about the limits to our love. You’ll note that He said, “lay down one’s life for his friends.” How far could I—would I—go to lay down my life for someone not my friend? A soldier throws his body on a grenade in a foxhole to save his buddies; would he do it for his enemies? A Secret Service agent threw himself into the path of a bullet intended for President Reagan, but would he do that for the president of, let’s say, North Korea?

A teacher lays her body over her students; but suppose she was a prison guard—would she do that for a convict?

Probably not, because for the greatest love we can muster, we all still have our limits. As the apostle Paul expressed it, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.”

That’s not to minimize the depth of human love when we see such sacrifice. Such unusual displays of love never fail to inspire. But as we appreciate and honor those teachers whose love made them willing to die for those children, their example can also remind us of someone else, someone whose love was extraordinary, because it had no limitations.

After Paul noted that “perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die,” he then wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Not while we were still innocent children, or comrades in arms, or friends and loved ones, but while we were still ungodly, he says, we had a Teacher who laid down His life for all humanity, including you. Paul said further, “For if when 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.” 

“The greatest love of all,” Whitney Houston sang a few years ago, is “learning to love yourself.” No, the song was wrong. Those teachers in Moore, Oklahoma, showed much greater love in laying down their lives for those kids. But the greatest love of all? That was Jesus Christ’s—laying down His life for all humanity!

For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m Clyde Kilough.