On Friday 23 March in France, a terrorist hijacked a car, killing one of the occupants, shot at a group of policemen who were out jogging and then stormed a supermarket. He killed two people before seizing others as hostages. He went on to injure a further sixteen people. During the siege, police officers managed to get some hostages out of the supermarket but the terrorist held one woman back as a human shield. It was at this point that Col Arnaud Beltrame of the Gendarmerie offered himself in exchange for the woman.
As he did so, he left his mobile phone on the table with an open line so that police outside could monitor the situation. It seems that when this subterfuge was discovered, the terrorist shot and mortally wounded Col Beltrame. The police stormed the supermarket shooting and killing the terrorist in response. Sadly, within 24 hours, Col Beltrame died of his injuries.
Arnaud Beltrame was a practising Catholic Christian who had recently made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Although he and his bride-to-be had been legally married in France, they were due to be married in church this June (the system in France is different to England). Instead, he and his wife were married in a Catholic ceremony as Arnaud lay dying in hospital.
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15.13
Arnaud Beltrame stands in a long line of men and women down the ages who have imitated Jesus Christ’s example and shown bravery, courage and faith beyond description; willing to consider their own selves of little worth should such a gift bring life and peace to others.
When I open the Scriptures and start reading, even in the first chapters of Genesis, I see an honest attempt from ancient people trying to understand, if God exists, why is the world so deeply broken and hurting?
They draw the conclusion that we are the problem. Selfish desires, small and large, rebellious and hurtful choices lie at the root of the world’s problems. In short, God is not the problem. We are.
Into such a world comes the man Jesus who claims to represent both sides of this cosmic divide; a human being who claims to be God.
In the events of Easter, we see him confront unarmed all the forces of evil that this world can muster. When they nail him to a cross, it looks as if evil has won.
But on Easter Sunday, we celebrate God’s triumph over evil. We declare God’s rescue plan for our deeply broken world. A plan that invites everyone to come to a cross, to humble themselves, to ask forgiveness, to put their faith in Christ, and not in the many attractions this world has to offer and will try to sell.
As people do that, they discover (as I have) a Greater Love that gives life. Love borne out of sacrifice and a courage to consider oneself as nothing, if it means life for others.
Rev David Green