This story is so terrible it's hard to repeat, but it illustrates the depth of our depravity. What would bring a mother to the place where she would eat her own son? Simply, she was afraid to die. The instinct of self-preservation is so strong in us it can turn mothers against their children, brother against brother, soldier against his country, friend against friend. In fear of death, our nature tells us to sacrifice anything and anyone to protect ourselves. Sometimes this is in circumstances which actually threaten our physical lives, but it is also played out in everyday events. We will sacrifice others to protect ourselves from all kinds of things: from the wrath of those in power, from shame, from embarrassment, from being excluded, from material or emotional loss, from pain of any sort.
Sometimes though, we hear of people who rise above their natural instinct, whose love is stronger than death— like the young soldier who threw himself on a grenade to protect his unit, like the missionary who became a martyr to take the gospel to a violent people. Like Jesus.
No, Jesus didn't walk up to a cross and say "nail me to it." He was arrested with false charges, beaten and sentenced, forced to carry His cross—but at any time, Jesus could have called on His Father and be rescued by legions of angels. He chose to lay down the power to save Himself because He knew our lives would be lost if He would not sacrifice His.
The soldier didn't say, "throw the grenade this way!" but when it came, he knew it was either take the hit himself or let others be hurt. There are missionaries who live under a constant threat of imprisonment and torture. They could come home to peace and comfort, but they know if they do, many who could have been saved will die an eternal death. And what about you? Who would be hurt if you choose to save yourself, vindicate yourself, protect your own comfort or social status?
Jesus said the greatest love is to lay down your life for a friend, but He went further—He laid down His life for us while we were still sinners, His enemies. He laid down His life for people who hurt Him. Jesus also said, "if you love those who love you, what reward will you get?" Anybody can do that (Matthew 43-48). But when you live grace and mercy with the same love Christ has for us, you are a true disciple.
If we want to be a disciple of Christ, we must die to ourselves and take up our cross. We must choose to have something greater than self-preservation rule in us. When fear of death, wrath, shame or embarrassment rises up in you, take hold of the love that is stronger than death. Demonstrate love in its greatest form: lay down the power to save yourself to give life to others.