September 11th is in many ways an occasion for us to reflect on sacrifice. As we remember the thousands who perished in the carefully orchestrated murder of unsuspecting civilians, let us also remember those who were not murdered but who willingly laid their lives down for others. Policemen and firemen who knew that the doors through which they walked would be the same doors leading them into eternity; office workers who did not flee when they had the chance but chose to stay behind so that they could others in escaping the collapse of those blazing towers; those on Flight 93 who did what it took to keep the airplane on which they flew from becoming another weapon of mass destruction used against their fellow Americans; they all laid down their lives in an act of love and courage that has branded into the American psyche an indomitable image of noble sacrifice.
In a day and age when selfishness seems to be the norm and despair the general atmosphere in which we live, we have on 9-11 a lasting reminder that each member of humanity has been given the capacity to look beyond himself and, with God’s help, genuinely make a difference in the world. There were many on that day whose names we may not know or cannot recall, who have nonetheless bravely laid down their lives for the love of others. They did not do so for fame or recognition or for any other personal benefit. They did it so that the lives of others could be saved. That makes them heroes and I am grateful to the Lord that even in the 21st century there are still heroes. And there are more yet hidden among us. Some are soldiers who serve their country at home or abroad. Some live and work with us at places of employment or study with us in our schools. Some live in the houses or apartments next door and some may be checking out our groceries at our local supermarkets. Some even attend our churches alongside us as they emulate the love that they see in Jesus Christ Who left heaven and came to earth so that He could lay His own life down for us.
Jesus is, in fact, the greatest of heroes for the sacrifice that He mad was not merely for the generation who lived at the time that He died, but for all generations before and that have followed after. His sacrifice was not only for a few but for all men and women who trust Him as Savior and Lord.
There are many quiet heroes in the church today whose model for living are found in Jesus. They daily make sacrifices so that others can be helped. Daily they lay down their own lives in myriads of ways so that others might come to personally see and receive the love of God.
In difficult times the light of such heroism shines brighter. And in desperate times such light leaps to flame, driving back darkness of despair, fear, selfishness, and sin. It’s a good thing, too. We still need heroes. And it might be that He’s calling you to be one of those daily heroes that light the way for others. It may be that your laying down of self might be the means through which another life is saved, hope is rekindled, and revival is ignited.
“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” (1 John 3:16 NIV). “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one that this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13 NIV).