I am writing my blog on September 11th. In my morning prayer, I spent some time reflecting on those events, now 17 years past, that seem like yesterday. There are so many facets to that day. So many images indelibly etched in my mind. So many stories of courage and heroism. As those stories are remembered and retold, I am always moved by the selfless and sacrificial acts of both civilians and first responders.
Self-sacrifice, a willingness to put the needs of others ahead of our own, is often what defines a hero. It is also the defining mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the ultimate example of self-sacrifice for the sake of others. He gave his life that we might live. He sacrificed himself that many might be saved. We are just beginning a new series entitled “Follow the Leader.” In this series, we will work through the gospel of Mark as we explore what it really means to follow after the example of Christ.
As I’ve reflected on the events of 9-11, it struck me that the heroes of that day exemplified for us the true nature of discipleship. To “follow the leader,” to live after the example of Christ, does not necessarily mean we will be put to death. But it is an invitation to live a life of self-sacrifice. As Christ followers, we are called to put others ahead of ourselves, even as Jesus put our needs ahead of his own.
For some of us, self-sacrifice will mean giving up our time, or sharing our resources, to help someone in need. At times, it will mean giving up what is comfortable or familiar to us in order to better reach someone else with the hope of Christ. On the surface, self-sacrifice sounds painful. It is contrary to our human nature to care more about others than ourselves. But in time, we also discover a great joy in blessing others, in serving God and in advancing His kingdom above our own.
As we reflect on the events of 9-11, may it inspire us to live selfless lives, putting the needs of others ahead of our own. Seeking to serve rather than be served. Striving to be a blessing rather than be blessed. This was the example of Jesus and an important part of what it means to follow the leader.