"There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." - John 15:13
I served in the US Army as a soldier for twelve years. This might seem peculiar once you learn that I am a Canadian citizen born in Coaldale, Alberta. In fact, I was living in Lethbridge when I signed up for the army. The US recruiters came across the border into Canada and set up a booth at a career fair held at Lethbridge College in November 2002, only a year or so after the events of 9/11.
As you might expect, the most commonly asked question I get all these years later is "Why did you sign up to join another country's army at the beginning of the Global War on Terror?" Those who have heard me speak on this topic before will remember that my time in the army prepared me heavily for pastoral ministry which was to come later.
But at the time of swearing into the service, I might have only been able to tell you that the reason I signed up was because God had a sense of humour. I was 34 and soon to be too old to get in. I was not a physically fit man. I was a self-proclaimed pacifist. Yet, for some reason, I was willing to overlook all those factors and give my life to Uncle Sam who was waging war overseas in the Middle East.
Something significant shifted in my thinking along the way. It didn't happen right away. And it didn't happen with the snap of the fingers. I progressively came to believe that a willingness to lay my life down for other people was a godly characteristic. As Christians, we seek to have the same attitude as Christ did here on earth. He did not need to do anything for us, but He willingly allowed humanity to end His life. He did it so that all humans might have the chance to spend forever with Him, their loving Saviour and Creator.
It wasn't like I felt I was saving other people by putting on a uniform. I wasn't even 100% sure at times whether what I was doing made a scrapload of difference in anyone else's life. But I felt that my time in the army was an expression of what Jesus had done for all of us, and I wanted to explore having that attitude.
We all are called to have that attitude as well. Not everyone is called to put on a uniform. Very few of us are called to lay down our lives for anyone in particular. But we are all called to have that attitude or willingness. When you adopt that posture for the first time, you connect with Jesus in a powerful way. You start to understand the immense value of selflessness.
Some have said that peace is the most elusive treasure in all the world. It's so hard to find. Some believe it's an illusion. Others feel it is temporary and beyond our control. But the words of God paint a different picture about finding true peace.