Greater love has no-one than this

by Charles Jones

On the 28th of March 2003, in the war to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, D Squadron of the Household Cavalry Regiment were probing forward along the Shatt Al Arab waterway, north of Basrah in Southern Iraq, some twenty miles ahead of the main force of 16 Air Assault Brigade. In exposed desert, their mission was to find and intercept the numerically vastly superior, and better equipped, Iraqi 6th Armoured Division.

Trooper Christopher Finney, a young armoured vehicle driver with less than twelve months service, was driving the leading vehicle of his troop - a small tank called a Scimitar, which had been at the forefront of action against enemy armour for several hours. In the early afternoon, the two leading vehicles paused beside a levee to allow the troop leader to assess fully the situation in front.

Without warning, they were attacked by two American ground attack aircraft, which had mistaken them for Iraqi vehicles. Both vehicles were hit and caught fire, and ammunition began exploding inside the turrets. Trooper Finney managed to get out of his driving position and was on the way towards cover when he noticed that his friend, the vehicle's gunner, was trapped in the turret. With no thought for his own life he went back and climbed onto the fiercely burning vehicle, at the same time placing himself at risk from enemy fire, as well as fire from the aircraft should they return.

Despite the smoke and flames and exploding ammunition, he managed to haul out his barely conscious and injured friend, get him off the vehicle, and move him to a safer position not far away, where he bandaged the serious wounds sustained by his friend.

The troop officer, in the other Scimitar, had been wounded and there were no senior ranks to take control. Despite his relative inexperience, the shock of the attack and the all-too-obvious risk to himself, Trooper Finney recognised the need to inform his headquarters of the situation. He therefore broke cover, returned to his vehicle, which was still burning, and calmly and concisely sent a lucid situation report, by radio.

He then returned to his injured friend and began helping him towards a Spartan vehicle of the Royal Engineers which had moved forward to assist.

At this point, Trooper Finney noticed that the two American aircraft were lining up for a second attack. Notwithstanding the impending danger, he continued to help his injured comrade towards the safety of the Spartan vehicle. Both aircraft fired their cannon and Trooper Finney was wounded in the buttocks and legs, and his gunner friend once again in the head. Despite his wounds, Trooper Finney succeeded in getting his friend to the waiting Spartan.

Then, seeing that the driver of the second Scimitar was still in the burning vehicle, Trooper Finney determined to rescue him as well, for he also 'was another good friend'. Despite his wounds and the continuing danger from exploding ammunition, he valiantly attempted to climb up onto the vehicle, but was beaten back by the combination of heat, smoke and exploding ammunition. He collapsed exhausted a short distance from the vehicle, and was recovered by the crew of the Royal Engineers' Spartan. His other friend, unfortunately, did not survive the awful incident.

Following Trooper Christopher Finney's outstanding courage and bravery on that day he was awarded the George Cross, which along with the Victoria Cross is the nation's highest award for gallantry, and, at age 18, became the youngest serviceman ever to receive it.

His citation for the George Cross ends with these words:

During these attacks and their horrifying aftermath, Trooper Finney displayed clear-headed courage and devotion to his comrades which was out of all proportion to his age and experience. Acting with complete disregard for his own safety even when wounded, his bravery was of the highest order throughout.

What we have here is an amazing account of how far one friend would go to the save the lives of two other friends. In the case of one friend he was able to save him from certain death; in the case of the other, although Christopher Finney did everything within his power to save him, he was not so fortunate - he died.

In this short story we have in these three people: a saviour, one who was saved, and one who died. The saviour was a man named Christopher. This English name comes from the Greek words for 'Christ' and 'to bear' -Christophoros. It was popular with early Christians who believed they 'carried' Christ in their hearts.

In the television programme, Songs of Praise, which recalled the story of Christopher Finney, the programme came to an end with Christopher Finney quoting John 15:12-13:

Jesus said, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

I don't think we have any room to doubt that Christopher Finney, a believer, lived up to his name that day, for twice he was willing to die for his friends. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 5,:7, that

"very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die'"

Christopher Finney certainly fits into this category, as he was prepared to die for his 'good friends' as he called them. The friend that Christopher Finney was able to save said on the television programme, 'I don't think I'll ever find a mainstream job again' (this is because of his physical disabilities following his terrible injuries), and he continued by saying, 'there are times when I feel very unlucky because of my injuries; but then that's all overshadowed by what Chris did for me, and I have got my life and our other friend hasn't.

"Without doubt", he said, "if it wasn't for Chris I would be dead, so I owe my life to Chris", he concluded. This friend of Chris' is in a similar position to all of us.

For as Chris was his friend's physical saviour, so our spiritual Chris - Christ, is our spiritual Saviour and friend, as he makes clear in John 15:15, when speaking to his disciples before his impending death. We, therefore, can certainly echo the words of the friend that Chris saved: i.e. we owe our lives to Christ. If it wasn't for Him we would be spiritually dead. Or as Paul puts it in Titus 3:5,

when we were trapped and unable to do anything at all to save our lives, 'the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared', and 'in accord with his mercy', 'he saved us'.

'I don't think I'll ever find a mainstream job again', said the saved soldier. This is because, although his life was saved, his injuries to his limbs and head will be with him for the rest of his life, making him a prisoner of them.

Aren't we in a similar position to this man, spiritually speaking? We have all been saved, but the once deadly handicap which we inherited at birth still trouble us to some degree; in fact Paul says quite clearly that he still struggled with this particular impediment, for he said in Romans 7:23 - 25,

'I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! 'What will rescue me out of this body of death?' The answer is 'Grace', says Paul, 'I thank God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord', he added.

As to never finding a mainstream job again, this is probably true as far as the soldier is concerned. But were it not for the fact that he was saved he would have no job at all. However, the soldier was not down hearted, for he said, 'luckily we're expecting our first child, so I'm going to be a stay at home dad, or try to be'. This soldier was rescued from certain death and his life has taken a different course to that it was on before. Everything that has happened to him since the 28th of March 2003 has been out of his hands, and the life he now leads is the result of what others have done for him, especially Christopher Finney, of course.

What about our lives since we came to believe that we also have been saved? Is your life in the mainstream of this world, or is it somewhere else?

The good news is that it is somewhere else. For Paul says in Ephesians 2:1-7,

"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

Yes, we are already out of the mainstream of this world, having been seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, and this is not our doing, as Paul explains in verses 8-10:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

However, we need to be mindful of the fact that just as the saved soldier has a different but a very useful and rewarding job following his physical salvation, and his new job in no way contributed anything to his rescue; in the same manner the works that God allows us to engage in following our salvation cannot be said to assist our salvation in any way.

Nevertheless, our new walk under the direction of God's spirit should bring honour to Him, a walk of true usefulness and blessing. Therefore, our present standing and our present work are not at all mainstream; indeed, how can they be, for we are now a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) having 'put off the old humanity which is corrupted ... and put on the new humanity which, in accord with God, is being created in true righteousness and holiness', as Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24.

The injured soldier said, 'There are times when I feel very unlucky because of my injuries, but then that's all overshadowed by what Chris did for me, and I have got my life and our other friend hasn't'.

We can all understand the negative thoughts that must be going through his mind on occasions, but we are also gladdened that the positive ones puts everything into perspective for him. 'All is overshadowed by what Chris did for me', he said; then adding, 'I would do the same for him'. Would we do the same for Christ? Even if our answer to that question is Yes, it is impossibility, of course, as we cannot sacrifice our lives to save his. However, as Paul urges us in Romans 12:1-2,

we can 'offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God'; this being our 'logical divine service' for what Christ has done for us.

Trooper Finney's citation says that he

'displayed clear-headed courage and devotion to his comrades which was out of all proportion to his age and experience'.

You will notice that the word used is 'comrades', plural; this is because what he did for the friend he saved, he also did for the friend who died. There was no difference in what he did for either of them - he dared to die for them both.

Christ, also, with a clear head, demonstrated his courage and devotion to his friends. He said to his twelve disciples in Mark 10:33-34,

'We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him'.

As we learn later through the Apostle Paul, Christ, also, sacrificed his life for two categories of people, which, in totality, constitute the whole of the human race.

As the soldier friend who died was not aware that Christopher Finney had risked his life for him, so there are people in this world who are totally ignorant of what Christ has done for them.

However, in God's own time, they will be made aware of the fact that Christ died for them too. For the Scriptures says in 1 Timothy 2, verses 5-6, 'For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all men - the testimony given in its proper time'. Also, in 1 Corinthians 15, verses 22-24, Paul says,

'For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be made alive. But each in his own turn'.

Yes, the Scriptures, correctly understood, make it plain that all are not saved at the same time. At the present time God is saving only those He has chosen and called unto the special salvation of the ages (1 Corinthians 1:26-30; 1 Timothy 6:12).

Also, it is written in 1 Timothy 4:10, that God is, indeed, 'the Saviour of all mankind, especially (but not exclusively) of those who believe', i.e., in this present age.

Christopher Finney's friend who was killed in the attack came from a peaceful village in Wiltshire. Towards the end of the moving story on television, Christopher and the friend he saved, Corporal Alan Tudball, went to visit the grave of their dead comrade, Corporal Matthew Hull, for the first time. Alan Tudball said by Matthew Hull's grave,

'I haven't said goodbye to Matt, properly. I think this will bring, not an end to things, but it will help me step further on in my life'.

Corporal Alan Tudball could not have realised how true his words were, for the grave does not bring an end to things, because one day, death itself, the last enemy, will be abolished, we are told in 1 Corinthians 15:26. And further along in the same chapter we have these words:

Then shall come to pass the word which is written, Swallowed up was death by Victory, Where, O Death is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:54-55) Trooper Finney was awarded the George Cross for what he did for his friends. Our Lord was not awarded a cross but suffered the cross, not only for his friends - as he called his disciples, but for you, and me, and all of humanity, while we were still his enemies, says Paul in Romans 5:10.

However, one day, in accordance with God's plan, all enmity towards Christ will cease - this we are told in 1 Corinthians 15:25.

This is why Jesus could say, 'Love your enemies' (Matthew 5: 44), because he knew that, ultimately, everyone would be reconciled to God through his blood, shed on the cross, as we are told in Colossians 1:20.

Our Lord and Saviour was not a hypocrite as the traditional hell doctrine, with its everlasting torments, makes him out to be. No, he practised what he preached; for, whilst suffering unbearable pain as he looked down at his enemies from the cross, he was faithful to his own teaching until the end.

For he said,

'Father, forgive them, for they are not aware what they are doing' (Luke 2:34).

Christopher Finney, the youngest serviceman ever to receive the George Cross, received it from Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace on the 25th of February 2004.

Christ Jesus, the only man ever to sacrifice his life for all mankind, was, nearly two thousand years ago, (because of his obedience to God and his love for all), given all honour by the Father, says the Apostle John in his Gospel, chapter 5-23, with the Apostle Paul adding in Philippians 2:9-11,

that he has been 'exalted by God to the highest place' and has been given 'the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father'.


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