Bible and cross

If you grew up in the church or have been a part of a church, chances are good that you know John 3:16 by heart: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

A wonderful verse of a God who gives; a verse of welcome and promise and invitation.

I want to share another John 3:16 verse that tells us what it meant for God to “give” his son. It's from John's epistle. In 1 John 3:16, we are told what God's gift cost: “We know love by this, that Jesus laid down his life for us.”

That gift of love was not free, it cost the life of Jesus Christ. And Jesus explained the greatness of sacrifice when he told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

From the days before vaccines had been developed comes this story of one willing to lay down his life for another. Johnny’s sister was dying of a disease that he had had and recovered from. The doctor knew about antibodies and said to Johnny, “Your sister needs your kind of blood to make her well. Would you be willing to give your blood so that she can live?” This frightened Johnny, but he agreed. The doctor took his blood. Johnny laid there patiently and finally asked the doctor, “When do I die?”

Only then did the doctor realize the extent of the child’s sacrifice. Johnny had offered his life to save his sister; Jesus declared that there is no greater love.

Today we again face a disease that has no vaccine. And we face a world filled with violence and discord. The numbers of deaths from COVID-19 are in the daily news. Murders and crime also are in the news every day.

In today's article, I want to give a nod to the men and women who are putting their lives on the line in face of these troubles. They demonstrate the great love Jesus commends. First responders, doctors, nurses, caregivers, all are putting their lives on the line each day as they face the possibility of contracting coronavirus. Our police and our soldiers willingly face the possibility of dying to protect our lives and our freedoms. Unfortunately, there are those who have abused these powers. But the vast majority are there to serve and protect.

Let us keep our front-line people in our prayers for protection and prayers of thanksgiving for all they do. May they know the high calling it is to serve. And may we recognize their sacrifices as acts of love as we recognize the love of God who gave his Son that we might live.

— Gordy Pennertz is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Litchfield.