The verse that kept running through my mind this past week was John 15:13: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."
You couldn't miss the context as we passed the 20-year mark of 9/11 this weekend. We were reminded of the sheer magnitude and loss of life—the devastation, destruction, and sorrow that took us all right back to that day. We watched in horror as first responders ran into the smoke and danger in an attempt to help and save others. Strangers trapped inside the towers came to each other's aid. We will probably never know the extent of all the life and death decisions encountered that day.
We all face a choice in how we confront the battles we face every day.
9/11 was a glimpse of the depth of evil that man is capable of. I was a Denver Police Lieutenant on 9/11/2001. My job was to "Serve and Protect," but I would be lying if I said my heart was always in it. The evil that I witnessed over 25 years on the police force appeared to be winning many times. At that point in my career, I was pretty easily discouraged; and 9/11 became a tipping point of sorts. I still believed in what I was doing but was no longer sure of the "Why" behind it all. I can remember calling Bill that day, wanting someone to tell me that there was still hope in a fight we seemed to be losing. 9/11 was the exclamation point on that front in my life.
So, what's the point? Haven't we all been challenged again and again over the past 20 years with the nature of evil? Seeming as though the good guys are losing? Forget the past 20 years; how about the last 20 months? Haven't we watched our world succumb to evil? Battle after battle: COVID, economy, elections…death. It's encouraging to see firefighters, police officers, or everyday citizens sacrificing and paying the ultimate price at great personal cost, but we know that ultimately man can't save man. Sometimes love is the first thing that goes out the window. So, I think we need to look at the verse right before John 15:13 – and the greatest sacrifice – because sometimes we can do the right things for all the wrong reasons. And I was stuck right there.
In verse 12 of John 15, Jesus gives us the "Why" – and it's in the form of a command: "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." There it is! I had lost that ability to love others. I just didn't "feel it" anymore.
I like what Jon Courson says regarding this. It doesn't matter how much theology you know or how much wisdom you claim to have. "If you don't love Me (Jesus) and the person sitting beside you, nothing else matters." Jesus doesn't ever command us to "feel" something. He commands us to DO something… to help the world see that He is alive—to be a participant in the most incredible rescue of all time.
So, whether it's 9/11 or 9-1-1 with your marriage, kids, finances, or just your personal struggles, we have a Savior. Jesus gave His life for you. Call on Him – choose to love even if it's at a great personal expense. That is what we saw in the twin towers on 9/11. Love and sacrifice overcoming evil. The forces of good overcoming the forces of evil. It's a story as old as time and the Gospel itself.
Personally, 9/11 became a time of significant change in my life in a lot of areas. Spiritually, I stopped believing that I could be a force of good on my own, and I started to believe that there is only One who is "good." I realized that I could represent Him no matter what I do for a living, in all of life's circumstances all the time. It's been one of the great journeys of my life. It's not found in what you do or what feelings may come or go – it's about who you do it for.
Psalm 91:15 - "…call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will glorify me."
Do it for the One who sacrificed everything—The One who loved you enough to die on a cross. We aren't the hero of the story.
-Pastor Doug S. Gehm