Saturday, April 23, 2022

Greater Love

[Originally published in the Monroe News on April 22, 2022]

A few weeks back on March 21 our family was returning home from visiting family in Virginia.  On our drive through the gorgeous landscape of Pennsylvania we made the decision to stop at the Flight 93 National Memorial.  What an amazing place.  It is a museum, a memorial, and a beautiful park dedicated to the remembrance of the 9/11 tragedy and those passengers on Flight 93 who caused the plane to crash in Shanksville, PA.  

When 9/11 happened I was in college and I still have vivid memories of getting ready for work that morning and watching events transpire on television.  I remember following all the stories as events unfurled in New York, Washington and eventually Pennsylvania. The stories of first responders having entered the twin towers and being lost when they crumbled.  The stories of human beings helping one another, even endangering themselves to save other lives.  This is what hit me as our family slowly made our way through the museum at the Flight 93 Memorial.  

I didn’t really know what to expect as we began to take in the images and the videos in the museum and relive that day 21 years ago.  I especially didn’t expect to get emotional as I took it all in.  I was holding my 3-month old son tight as tears began to find their way down my cheeks.  Just picturing in my mind how the events on Flight 93 played out really hit me.  Passengers trying to understand what is happening with the hijacking.  Learning of what took place in New York and realizing their plane might also be used to crash into a building. They were even trying to get on phones trying to talk to loved ones back home not knowing if they would ever see one another again. Then the fateful decision to try and retake the plan.  A decision to risk their own lives knowing what had to be done.  That is what moved me the most.  That decision to sacrifice.  That decision to love people you’ve never met but you know it is the right thing to do.  It is just so beautiful and so amazing.  I wasn’t sure if my tears that day at the memorial were for the sadness of it all or for the beauty of the love displayed in making the ultimate sacrifice.  Probably both.

That sacrifice is true love.  Period.  That is the greater love Jesus speaks of in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  I have no doubt saying if more people in our world, nay, if all of us in this world, sought to live out such greater love in our daily lives we would find this life to be all the more joyful.  

Our problem is we have gotten love all wrong.  We’ve tortured and redefined and abused love into all sorts of things it is not.  Marriages go all wrong when our love becomes about getting our own way and seeking our own selfish interests.  Those that support slogans like “love is love” or “let love win” also truly miss the boat in understanding love.  Love is not about getting what we want, love is about giving ourselves up.  Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. Love is not indulging all our fantasies and personal desires. Greater love is doing what’s best for someone else. 

That is Jesus’ meaning in John 15:13.  It doesn’t just mean death and the ultimate sacrifice when he says “lay down his life for his friends”, though it certainly could.  It means husbands and wives who put their spouse first above all others including themselves.  It means brothers and sisters, neighbors and coworkers choosing to act to put their neighbor’s well-being ahead of their own.  It even means loving our enemies.

As always, Jesus is the prime example of love.  Christians around the world celebrated Jesus’ love all through Holy Week last week especially on Good Friday when we remembered His sacrificial death on the cross.  Jesus on the cross is the greatest love.  But there was a moment the night before the cross that really brings this home.  When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed about what was to come on the cross with His death.  Luke 22:42 captures some especially powerful words: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”   That is greater love.  Could Jesus have brought about His own will and avoided the cross?  He had the power to.  He could have stopped the Roman soldiers in a heartbeat.  But His love for us led Him to say these words “not my will, but yours, be done.”  And then He went to the cross to suffer and die for us.

Dear friends, what if we used those words more often.  “Not my will, but yours.”  What if we could summon up the humility and the love to see this life as not being about executing our own will in every moment.  Greater love is looking for our neighbors’ will and needs.  Even better, it is seeking to live our Heavenly Father’s will above our own.  After all, His will ultimately leads to the greatest good for us.  I hope you’ll come to know this greater love and rejoice every day, for Christ is risen!

To God be the glory.

Mark Witte is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church.
You can contact him at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts