by Dick Innes
The Greatest of these is Love. It was a crystal clear night over the Pacific in 1942, when Butch O'Hare, flying alone in his fighter airplane, spotted nine twin-engine Japanese bombers heading toward his home base, the carrier Lexington.
"What chance would I have against nine armed bombers?" he argued with himself. The odds were stacked against him, but he knew if he didn't attack, these bombers could very well sink his carrier. So he attacked. Alone. O'Hare downed five of the bombers and was attacking a sixth when he ran out of ammunition. Fortunately, his comrades came to his rescue and downed the remainder of the bombers.
Because of his daring accomplishments, Lt. Cmdr. Edward Henry "Butch" O'Hare was the first naval aviator of World War II to be personally awarded the Medal of Honor by the President of the United States.
A year later, Butch was killed in aerial combat, but his home town never forgot his heroic efforts. They named their major airport in his honor.
But there's more to the story. Back in the Roaring Twenties, a slick lawyer nicknamed "Artful Eddie" became deeply in crime with the notorious gangster Al Capone.
Eddie became very wealthy but his lifestyle bothered him. So he went to the authorities to inform on Capone. He realized what this could mean because no one turns against a crime mob without paying a high price. Eddie had only one reason: his son, Butch. He didn't want him to grow up following his example, but rather, seeing a model of a good man and father.
Eddie paid dearly for squealing on Capone, with his life. He was gunned down with two shotgun blasts. Before he was, however, he had cleared his family of its underworld stain and his son was accepted for training at the U.S. Naval Academy and went on to win one of his nation's highest awards.
The airport named after Butch? O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, one of the busiest airports in the world. Its name stands as a reminder of one man who was willing to give his life to help his son make good. And of a son who was willing to risk his life to save his comrades and, in fact, gave his life to help save his country.
Another extraordinary man who gave his life to save others was described by one writer as follows:
"Almost two thousand years ago there was a man born contrary to the laws of life. This man lived in poverty and was reared on obscurity. He did not travel extensively. Only once did he cross the boundary of the country in which he lived, and that was during his exile in childhood.
"He possessed neither wealth nor influence. His relatives were inconspicuous and had neither training nor formal education.
"In infancy he startled a king; in childhood he puzzled doctors; in manhood he ruled the course of nature, walked upon the billows as if pavements, and hushed the sea to sleep.
"He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for his service. "He never wrote a book, and yet perhaps all the libraries of the world could not hold the books that have been written about him.
"He never wrote a song, and yet he has furnished the theme for more songs than all the songwriters combined.
"He never founded a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many students.
"He never marshaled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun; and yet no leader ever had more volunteers who have, under his orders, made more rebels stack arms and surrender without a shot fired.
"Once each week the wheels of commerce cease their turning, and multitudes wend their way to worshipping assemblies to pay homage and respect to him.
"The names of the past proud statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone; but the name of this man abounds more and more. Though time has spread [two thousand]years between the people of this generation and the scene of his crucifixion, yet he still lives. His enemies could not destroy him and the grave could not hold him.
"He stands on the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory proclaimed of God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints and feared by devils as the risen, personal Christ, our Lord and Savior. He was and is the incomparable Christ."
More than a hundred years ago, a young man by the name of Edward W. Spencer was standing on the shore of one of the Great Lakes when he saw a crowded passenger steamer, the Lady Elgin, floundering. Far out in the breakers, he saw a woman clinging to a piece of wood. Throwing off his jacket, he plunged into the turbulent waves, swam to the struggling woman, and rescued her.
Sixteen times during that day, Spencer swam out through the rough waters and rescued seventeen people before he collapsed on the beach exhausted.
At the time, Spencer was in training to become a minister. Prior to this, as a university student, he had been a member of a volunteer student lifesaving crew, so was well prepared for this emergency. Apparently, however, he overextended himself rescuing those seventeen people and never fully recovered from the exertion. He was unable to enter his chosen profession and lived a quiet life in poor health and died at age eighty-one. In a notice of his death, one newspaper reported that not one of the seventeen people he rescued on that fateful day ever returned to thank him.
How sad it was that nobody returned to say thank you to Edward Spencer for his act of love, for as the Bible says, "There is no greater love than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."1
And how much sadder it is when we fail to thank Jesus Christ for dying on the cross to pay the ransom price for our sins, and fail to ask for his forgiveness, and receive his free pardon with the gift of eternal life.
Don't let this day pass without thanking Jesus Christ for dying on the cross for your sins and receiving his gift of eternal life. As God's Word says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved."2
And again, "If you confess with your mouth, `Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."3
1. John 15:13. 2. Acts 16:31(NIV). 3. Romans 10:9(NIV).