The bushfires in Victoria over the past week or two have certainly shaken our country. It is hard not to be touched by these scenes of human tragedy in our own ‘backyard’.
We have seen images of charred homes on the news, weeping families and stubbornly resilient hope in people’s eyes. We have seen people’s lives destroyed and acts of heroic courage. We have seen a huge outpouring of support, in words and in donations, for the victims of the fires. We have seen acts of profound selflessness, evidence that there remain in our days people who genuinely care for others.
I received an email that contained this message:
“…a volunteer firefighter who spent three days fighting the fires, saving lives and homes, finally went to his own home for some badly-needed sleep. His house burnt down at 3.30 am while he was sleeping in it.”
I am reminded of the words of our Lord Jesus:
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Some may see this as a gross injustice. Why should a man who worked so hard to save others be treated in this shabby way by life? What had he done that he deserved to die?
But there is a bigger picture: the same words might have been said of Jesus Himself as He hung on the Cross.
When Love enters, Justice retires to the back of the room, for one far greater is present. Love is not about justice for oneself – it is about the giving of oneself. Often, to give in love means to surrender one’s rights willingly and happily.
I don’t know anything else about his firefighter, whether he was a good man or not, whether he loved God or went to Church. But I think his act of selfless giving to save others would not go unrewarded by God.
If nothing else, it is interesting to contemplate that we all must die, one day, somehow. Perhaps this way of dying gives meaning to his life, more than many other ways he might have died? And perhaps that makes his life a life worth living.
Selfless self-sacrifice has its own rewards, not just in eternity, but also here on earth. It means something to forget the self and to serve others, regardless of the cost. How many people are at this very moment stumbling through their day without a real purpose, living selfish lives without meaning?
Perhaps the fire-fighter’s sacrifice is to be celebrated; perhaps we should reserve some sadness for those who still walk on the earth but are dead inside.