"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as
an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1John 4:10, NIV2)
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8, NIV2)
"He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him." (1Thess 5:10, NIV2)
Real love is quite hard to find in a world where most of us think only about ourselves. Lack of time doesn't help either. Marriages in our day and age are so easily broken, and children are easily led into rebellion. It is a scary thing to even choose a spouse. Imagine marrying a mafia-istic kind of guy or girl! Terrifying!
When we don't experience love, it is hard to truly love genuinely. We never know if there are hidden motives.
It wasn't different in the days when Jesus showed up in our neighborhood. Criticism, especially by the religious authorities, was at an all-time high. People were crucified for little or no reason. Everyone was thinking only about themselves. Rebellion was brooding, especially towards those dominating Romans. There was no security anywhere. Amidst all that turmoil, it's no wonder that when Jesus was born, no one even had time to celebrate this occasion, except for a few shepherds and a handful of wise men from afar. Instead of love, this baby was pursued to extinction by local authorities. His own parents had to run away and hide in Egypt with their child. How easily this child could have become bitter! But He never did. Instead he loved anyone genuinely. No restrictions at all.
He had but one purpose in life: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." (1 John 3:16, NIV2)
Are all Christians filled with such a love? Unfortunately not. Not everyone who goes to church knows God personally. Remember the parable of the wheat and the weeds in Matthew 13: 24-30? There will always be advocates of the evil one amidst believers. Anyone who meets the Risen One, however, will experience dramatic change in their lives. Over time, bitterness will be replaced with forgiveness, and genuine love from above will begin to grow like never before, so much so that we would be willing to die for others.
Auschwitz was a brutal place during World War II. If a man escaped, ten men would be murdered in revenge. In July, 1941, a man was believed to have escaped. Despite the fact that he was eventually found drowned in a camp latrine, the punishment was still executed. Ten men were selected to be locked up in the starvation bunker without food or water for two weeks. These poor men were filled with terror. No one would be eager to face such cruelty!
Ten were selected to die for the man who was thought to have escaped, and among them was Franciszek Gajowniczek, who had been arrested for helping the Polish Resistance. Upon learning of his selection, Franciszek began crying out in loud anguish: "My poor wife! My poor children! What will they do?"
A Polish priest named Maximilian Kolbe took pity on him. He stepped silently forward, took off his cap, and stood respectfully before the puzzled commandant. Maximilian began: "I am a Roman Catholic priest. Please let me take his place. I am old, after all he has a wife and children."
Never had anyone suggested such a thing. The commandant couldn't help wondering what motivated this man. His answer? "What does this Polish pig want?"
Maximillian pointed with his hand to the one named Franciszek and reiterated "I am a Roman Catholic priest. I would want to take his place, because he has children and a wife."
Amazingly the commandant stood silent for a moment, and everyone was astonished when he agreed to the exchange. Franciszek was saved thanks to this priest who was willing to take his place.
Why would anyone do such a thing? Who would be willing to die for anyone other? This seems impossible, but not to those who have been touched by God's love. If Jesus was willing to die for us so that we could experience eternity, why shouldn't we follow His example? Only God's love could motivate someone to do such a thing. After all, Jesus confirmed that "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13, NIV2)
Maximillian with nine others were locked up in a dark cell in Building 13 and were left there to die. Two weeks later, four of them were still alive, Maximillian included. At that time, the cell was needed for other condemned men. The survivors were injected with a lethal dose of carbolic acid in their left arms. Maximillian died that day, August 14, 1941, at the age of 47, his face calm and radiant.
One of the guards noticed Maximillian's example and was impressed that amidst so much hatred, Maximillian had sown so much love. All of the prisoners in Auschwitz were also touched by the story. His self-sacrifice brought hope in Auschwitz.
This is the kind of love our Heavenly Father has for each one of us. No wonder that the apostle Paul wrote: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8:38-39, NIV2)
Would we be willing to die for someone else? This is only possible when our Heavenly Father dwells mightily within us. This is why I am a follower of the Most High!
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