Christians have been helping to minister to people in France in the wake of the terrorist shooting in Carcassonne and Trèbes, on 23 March — a shooting that left four dead and many physically injured and mentally traumatised.
Hicham, a pastor ministering in south-western France, who has written before for Evangelical Times, has written: ‘The terrorists want to put France on her knees. They will succeed only in putting Christians on their knees in prayer for France. Islamist extremism, whatever its roots, must be fought in prayer, love and the power of our Christian witness. Let us therefore not be paralysed by fear or animated by hatred. Pray, then, for France and also pray for our enemies’.
Much has also been made in the French press of the heroic police officer, who gave his life so that one of the shopworkers being held hostage might go free.
In a startling parallel with the words of Scripture, ‘Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13), 44-year-old Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame traded places with Julie and was shot instead of her.
Julie was quoted in the French press as stating, ‘He gave his life for me; he was killed so that I could live’. Lt-Col. Beltrame had professed faith in Christ some 10 years ago, although within a Catholic context and perhaps with scant knowledge of the theological differences between Protestantism and Catholicism.
But Hicham commented, ‘The chaplain of the Gendarme national [was quoted as having] said: “He did not hide his faith. In fact, he radiated it. His sacrificial act was in line with what he believed.
“He went to the limit in his service for his country and his testimony to his faith. To believe is not only to adhere to a doctrine. It is first to love God and your neighbour, and to testify of your faith concretely in everyday life”.’
Whatever the theological background, the parallels between Christ’s sacrificial love and Lt-Col. Beltrame’s actions are startling and inspiring and cannot have been lost on a secular country such as France. In his Thought for the Week, Peter Milsom commented, ‘The courage and self-sacrifice of the French gendarme was remarkable’.
Mr Milsom said, ‘He was keen to learn more about God and his Son, Jesus Christ. What he learned about Jesus prepared him for the moment when he offered to take the place of the woman in the supermarket’.
As Easter 2018 drew near, the world was given a startling and vivid modern illustration of one person selflessly dying to save another. Yet, however heroic and selfless this or many similar noble deaths down the centuries have been, they can never approach the infinite value of the death of Jesus Christ, who suffered on the cross 2,000 years ago.
The only begotten Son of God lived a perfect life and died a sinless death, in order to atone for the sins of not just one but a vast number of sinners. ‘In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:10).