There is a big difference between laying down your life and helping out. Jesus didn’t just help out. He laid down his life.
The difference is well illustrated in a movie I enjoyed recently, John Q. In this movie, an otherwise normal American guy is driven to craziness when his son gets sick. His son needs a heart transplant and the hospital will not put him on the list because his insurance had been cancelled. He holds up the hospital emergency room at gunpoint. At one point, one of the hostages says to the guard in the hospital, “Why don’t you do something? You are a guard. You are supposed to protect us so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen. Why don’t you do something?” “Not me,” he quips, “Not for $12 an hour.” He was willing to help out; he was not willing to lay down his life.
Denzel Washington, who plays this dad, is willing to lay down his life. Toward the end of the movie he volunteers to take his own life and asks the doctor to take out his heart and give it to his son. That is dedication. That is not just helping out; that is laying down your life. Of course, a donor was found in the final seconds and they lived happily ever after. But, he was willing to lay down his life.
His actions remind me of Christ. Jesus wasn’t just willing to lay down his life. He actually did it. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1). Literally, this could be translated, “His love reached its destiny.”
And he didn’t lay down his life for an idea or a cause or a program. He laid down his life for sheep. Lynn Anderson wrote a book years ago with the title, They Smell Like Sheep. As someone in Oklahoma told me one time, “I understand what you are saying about loving people, but these people are hard to love.” Sheep really are hard to love at times.
Jesus laid down his life for sheep and calls us to do the same. “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16). Not just help out; lay down our lives. Not for a cause; for sheep. Sheep are smelly. People are sometimes obnoxious, rude, boring, inconsiderate, phony, and late. Don’t just put up with them. Lay down your life for them. That is what I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E. teachers do.
Winston Churchill said, “There comes a special moment in everyone’s life, a moment for which that person was born. That special opportunity, when he seizes it, will fulfill his mission—a mission for which he is uniquely qualified. In that moment, he finds greatness. It is his finest hour.”
John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1999).