I was struck, last week, by the outpouring of praise and recognition for Arnaud Beltrame, the French police officer who willingly swapped places with a hostage at the supermarket in Trebes, southern France. There was commentary from all corners of society of his bravery in knowingly putting himself in a situation from which he was unlikely to emerge unscathed, or even alive. Unfortunately, it was the latter that took place, with the gunman fatally wounding Arnaud before being killed himself. Later in the week, Arnaud was posthumously awarded the "Legion d'Honour", France's highest recognition for bravery and service.
What he did was incredible - something that I'm not sure I would do given the same circumstances. I like to think I would, but it would be something else to actually be in that situation and have to make a decision. But as I've thought about it, some other things have occurred to me.
He must have had hope: hope that things might work out differently from how they were headed. He must have had love: love for someone in a worse position than himself that overrode the sense of self-entitlement; sacrificial, in fact. And he must have had faith: not necessarily faith that he would come out of it alive, but faith that his actions would save the life of another person.
Perhaps obviously, as a Christian, I also saw the parallels between his actions and those of Jesus. Good Friday and then Easter are the essence of God's love for his creation. As Jesus contemplated what lay before him he had that momentary lapse of asking for a way out, but then quickly recognised that it was the Father's will that took precedence. As he was tried, mocked, and sentenced to death, he would have seen face-to-face some of those for whom he was to die, knowing that his act of sacrifice would give them the opportunity for new life. And as he was hung on the cross, he knew what it was to be separated from those he loved, and especially his Father, at a time when he needed them most.
But that's where the parallels with Arnaud come to an end, for three days later, Jesus rose from the dead and claimed victory over sin and death for us. He'd paid the price in our stead and come out as victor rather than victim.
I think that the reason why there was so much outpouring of admiration and recognition for Arnaud is because, somewhere deep inside everyone, is that recognition that we all need a saviour - someone to release us from the penalty of all that we do to hurt ourselves, hurt others, or hurt God. The flowers laid at Arnaud's police station, and the posthumous award, are symbols of gratitude and of grief, and rightly so, for it was an unselfish sacrifice.
And what does Jesus ask of us in response to his ultimate sacrifice? Simply to invite him into our heart, to know his forgiveness, to let him help us live life with faith, hope and love, and to help see his kingdom come.
He is risen! Hallelujah!
Amazing Love (Graham Kendrick)