No Greater Love

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Bill O’Reilly in his book, Killing the Rising Sun, relates many short stories to give the brief history of World War II and the use of the first atomic bomb.  He relates the story of Desmond Doss, a recipient of the medal of honor.  Doss is one of 3,500 individuals that have been decorated with America’s highest award for valor.  O’Reilly relates, “It is Saturday on Okinawa, the Sabbath for PFC Desmond Doss.  It is to be a day of rest and prayer (Doss is a Seventh Day Adventist-DS), even amid the ongoing battle for the Maeda Escarpment.  His leg is bruised and bleeding from falling over the side of the cliff last night, and he can barely stand.  As the sun rises, Doss leans back against a rock, thinking of is girlfriend back home and reading his Bible.
A week has passed since Doss’s squad launched their attack.  The seesaw battle for the escarpment continues; the Japanese are utilizing a “reverse slope” defense, in which the Americans are allowed to occupy the forward portions of the summit but the crest and the reverse side of the mountain remain in Japanese hands.  In the process, the Americans have been pushed off the summit many times, only to fight back and regain the high ground. Each day, PFC Doss has climbed the great rope ladders (about 60′-DS) to treat the American wounded (Doss is a medic–DS). His uniform has turned the color of dried blood from all the men he has treated, frantically performing first aid amid grenades and small-arms fire.  Doss refuses to seek cover as he applies tourniquets, stanches blood flow, injects morphine, and dragged men from the line of fire. B Company has been reduced from 200 to 155 men, and it is Doss who has tended to each of the fallen, alive or dead, he has lowered their bodies off the escarpment to safety.
…Doss’s wounded leg throbs, but he remains on the summit.  The company has no other medic.  An American attack on the well-fortified pillbox fails, and more men fall.  The dead and dying are spread out across the escarpment as the order to fall back is issued.  Every able soldier retreats to safety, scrambling back down the cargo net.  Left atop the cliff are Doss, a hundred wounded Americans, and the Imperial Japanese Army.
Doss refuses to leave.  “I knew these men; they were my buddies, some had wives and children.  If they were hurt, I wanted to be there to take care of them,” Doss would later write.
Working tirelessly, exposed to thick gunfire and exploding shells, the private treats every one of the fallen.  The wounded who can shoot provide covering fire as they await their turn to be rescued. Ignoring the searing pain in his leg, Doss grabs each of them under the shoulders or by the heels and drags them to the edge of the cliff.
As a child, Desmond Doss once helped rescue victims of a flood.  It was then that he was taught a special knot with which he could fashion a sling using a short section of rope.  The memory of that knot, something that he had not thought of for twenty years, suddenly comes back to him.  Using this impromptu technique, Doss lowers man after man over the side, then rushes back across the escarpment to get another. “Just get one more,” he says to himself over and over. “Just one more.”
Japanese soldiers take aim at Doss, but they miss.  When they advance with bayonets, sometimes coming within just a few feet of the medic, wounded Americans summon the strength to shoot the Japanese soldiers dead.
By nightfall, PFC Desmond Doss has single-handedly saved the lives of seventy-five men.
“I can state without reservation that the actions of this man were the most outstanding display of bravery I have ever seen,” First Lieutenant Cecil Gornto will marvel.
“I wasn’t trying to be a hero,” Doss will tell a newspaper reporter much later in his life. “I was thinking about it from this standpoint–in a house on fire, and a mother has a child in that house, what prompts her to go in and get that child? “Love,” he will respond, answering his own question, “I loved my men and they loved me…I just couldn’t give them up, just like a mother couldn’t give up the child.”” (pp. 110-112).
“No greater love” is the love that we have for another when we would be willing to lay down our life for him/her.  It is the supreme act of devotion.
Jesus accomplishes the supreme act of love on the cross. His death for us and in our behalf represents a selfless love that is powerful to conquer sin, death and the human heart.  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Jesus instructs His disciples to possess and display this same love for one another. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).  All of the elements of love are on display at the cross.  There is forgiveness, inner strength, a higher, nobler purpose, salvation of others, compassion, suffering, sacrifice, and resolution to face death.
Love is transformational!  Love can change a family, a military unit, a football team, a community, a congregation of God’s people, and, yes, it can change the world! What’s the proof? Jesus’ love has already changed the world.