John 15:13 (NKJ) - Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.
Back in 1978, I was dealing with an early stage addiction to alcohol. Though that was not my only challenge, it was the challenge that was most overwhelming, as it brought about entanglements that permeated every aspect of my life. Thankfully, the addiction had not yet progressed to where I drank at work, especially based on the fact that I was a high school teacher. Yet, my students were not unaware that I was what some called a "party teacher." Sadly, many also mislabeled me as "cool" based on my substance abusing lifestyle. However, I did love those students and even told them that at the beginning of the school year, making sure that the girls knew my saying so was not a romantic overture and that the boys did not misinterpret my words.
It was during the 1978-79 school year that I came to know Christ as Savior. What a blessing it was, too, when during that school year I experienced deliverance from my increasingly troublesome alcohol addiction through my newfound relationship with Christ. I was last drunk in the spring of '79. However, after finding freedom from alcoholism a question began to consistently cross my mind. If I loved my students, as I had told them before I came to know Christ as Savior, how could I, with the school year coming to a close and aware that I was moving permanently away that next summer, not tell them about the magnificent blessing I had experienced in coming to know Christ's salvation? More and more it became apparent to me that, loving them, I must tell them. However, telling them involved risks, as the public schools with the secularization of our culture frown on sharing such things, sometimes taking punitive actions for doing so. Of course, laying down our lives for others often involves taking risks on their behalf.
So, I decided to tell them about the great blessing I had experienced in coming to know Christ as Savior, even if it meant risking punitive actions by the school system or, perhaps, rejection by the students. Thankfully, none of my superiors in the school system ever said a word to me about my sharing about Christ with my students. And, amazingly to me at that time, the majority of my students, rather than rejecting, chastising, or seeking to humiliate me for what I shared, expressed a desire to experience the wonder of knowing Christ as Savior as well. I told them how they could do so, and, eventually, observed that over two-thirds of my students did as I had done, embracing Christ as Savior. These many years later, I also realize that much of the success I experienced in sharing the message of salvation with the students was based on the fact that I truly did love them, and, for the most part, they knew it.
Loving others by telling them about Christ, especially in our secularized culture, is not without risks. However, to not take those risks is to not fully lay down our lives for others. Tragically, if we do not take those risks, those we love may never experience the wonder of knowing Christ as Savior and could spend an eternity separated from God. Their perhaps never knowing His salvation due to our silence, that is a risk that none of us should be willing to take!