“There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.” Most everyone has heard these words before, I suppose. Indeed the statement has become so familiar to us as to make it hard for us to look deeper to grasp their full meaning. If you think a moment you will soon realize the words, and I am sure most of us would agree that, should it ever come to it, we would be willing to die for our friend. Though we can only hope to be given the courage and constancy to really do it. However if we look even deeper and consider more fully, these words, we can come upon a stronger, even shocking reality. If we look at Christ, the man speaking, and remember that He has no enemies, that is to say that He loves and looks upon everyone as a friend, then we see that when He said, “There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend,” He meant, or might have said, “for another,” or even, “for one’s enemy.” I wonder how many of us would be willing to die that our enemy might live? But that is just what Christ said is the ultimate act of love. Just what Christ did.
The other night my sister and I were talking about literature. Precisely good books, and what made them good. We came to a definite conclusion. Rarely is there a good book that does not contain a self-sacrifice, that is to say good books are made what they are through the intense offering of something by someone, for the benefit of someone else. Most of the books I have read have, at one point or another, touched me so that I could feel the awe and appreciation run all the way through me. It sounds odd, I admit, but it’s not just me. That is, other people have explained, or tried to explain the same thing to me. Unconditionally the words that touch me are always those explaining some outpouring of self, or sacrifice of one’s desire, for another. For an example I will use J. R. R. Tolkien’s trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, as it is made up of the three most beautiful books I know, second only to the Bible which must always be first as it is God’s very word. I must now hope you are at least somewhat familiar with the story, as I cannot describe every scene. I think the parts therein that most move me are Boromir’s death, Gandalf standing against the Balrog, Sam carrying Frodo up Mount Doom, Aragorn coming to assist Eomer and his men on the Battle of the Pelanor Fields, Faramir denying the Ring, the Allied Forces riding to affront the enemy at the Black Gate, and Arwen giving up immortality for Aragorn, which does not happen in the story but is spoken of as happening before it begins. There are more but I suppose that will do. Other examples of the same principle can be found in Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles, Louisa May Alcott’s works, Constance Savery’s works, and ever so many more. I have read such a great many things that I cannot write it all down. Beside that would be wandering rather far from my point.
I had lately resolved to go over, touch up and revise the three fairy tales I have written. That night that we were talking about sacrifice in literature I realized that is what my fairy tales lacked. Everyone said they were good, but I knew they could be better. There can be beauty without sacrifice but with it beauty becomes glory, and glory becomes holiness. With it beauty is brought to a level so great as to make what little that had been there before look like a blade of grass beside a rose bush. I have resolved to add deeper beauty to my stories, and it has been but an easy task so far, for beauty comes naturally to true life, and it writes itself into the pages. I don’t know what makes giving of oneself so glorious. That is, I cannot see why it alone has such a moving power. Perhaps Christ said there is no greater love because of that, or rather because He said there is no greater love such a love is so great. But then, it must have been the greatest love before He declared it so, it was only that we did not know it as such. Now we do. It is something to think about, even if we are never called to give up our life for another, for Christ.
What if we are? Could we do it? I wonder.