“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
- John 15:13
Someone once gave me a wonderful book, the title of which escapes me, about a grandfather teaching his young grandson lessons in life. As with the book’s title I have long since forgotten most of the vignettes about the grandfather’s wisdom – except one. It seems the grandfather had taken the boy, who was maybe six or seven years old, down to the river’s edge to teach one of his lessons, unaware that danger was nearby from a large rattlesnake lurking in the weeds. Suddenly the grandfather saw the serpent’s head rise up out of the grass, and instinctively he threw up his hand in front of the boy just in time to intercept the snake’s venomous strike, thus saving the young lad. . . Afterwards, of course, the grandfather became deathly ill, but thankfully did survive.
Perhaps I remember that story because it sent a chill up my spine. (Rattlesnakes do that to me, you know.) But I also remember thinking to myself, “would I do that for someone, even my own grandchild?” Hmm . . . well maybe now that I’m a protective grandfather myself I can imagine it, at least more than I could back years ago when I read that book. It still makes me shudder, though
Through the years, no passage of scripture has haunted me more than the one about laying down one’s life for his friends. Like the rattlesnake story, could I do that? When I was in the military I often wondered if I’d be willing to fall on a grenade to save my comrades had I ever been called into combat (which I never was). Would I jump in front of a bus on a busy street to save a stranger from being run over, or run inside a burning house to save a neighbor? Thankfully for me – so far at least – none of those questions have ever been put to the test, to literally lay down my life for someone else.
But aren’t we all challenged every day in almost every circumstance not to put our own desires and wellbeing ahead of someone else’s? Is my time, for example, more valuable than another driver’s that I should cut him off on the freeway? Is my selfish greed more important than helping someone in need? Whether it’s literal life and death, or the simple day-to-day ordinary experiences of life, isn’t the application still the same? “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”