Among the stories being reported about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida yesterday is that of the heroic actions of Assistant Football Coach Aaron Feis. Students who survived the shooting reported that Feis, a 37-year old married father of one young daughter, placed himself between students and the gunman to shield students from fire. He also pushed at least one female student out of a door to protect her. Coach Feis was shot and died later of his wounds.
Friends and co-workers who knew Mr. Feis said they were not surprised by his actions. A big, burly man describes by the head football coach as a “big ol’ teddy bear,” Feis was well liked and respected by the staff and players at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS where he was the offensive line coach.
Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
Mr. Feis embodied those words of our Lord. He put himself in harm’s way in hopes of protecting the innocent students whose lives were at risk. He gave his own life for the sake of others. Furthermore, he didn’t do it because he was a trained professional whose job it is to put his life at risk. He was not a police officer, fire fighter, or member of the military forces. He was a teacher. He belonged to a profession with no expectation of putting one’s life on the line simply by showing up for work. His sacrifice was pure and entire and above and beyond the call of duty.
One of the pictures coming out of the Florida shooting is that of two mothers holding on to each other as they await news of their children. One of the mothers is collapsing into the arms of the other, whose own face is racked with grief. The mother holding up the one collapsing is wearing two symbols that I could not miss. The one is a heart on a necklace. Yesterday, the day of the shooting, was St. Valentine’s Day, a day set aside to express our love for those we hold most dear. The other symbol was on her forehead: a cross made of ashes. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It’s a day set aside to remember that “you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19c). It is the first day of a liturgical season of repentance, of turning away from sin toward faith in the gospel, of remembering what Christ has done for us on the cross. By His wounds we were healed (Isaiah 53:5).
Our world, enveloped in the horror of sin, cannot be redeemed by laws and policies. To be sure, we must do the best we can to allay the evils that threaten us. But, so long as people walk this world, there will be mothers, overcome by grief, collapsing into each others’ arms. Our greater hope is in the likes of those like Aaron Feis, who are willing to offer their lives, like Christ, for the sake of others.
Ultimately, though, our hope is in Christ. Death comes to all, whether young or old, expected or unexpected, in peace or in violence. There is no escaping death. Whether death is conqueror or conquered, however, depends on where we stand with Christ.
“For this I declare, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality. And when this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about:
‘Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.