He stood behind the podium, his fingers gripping the sides tightly. Scanning the room, he realized a lot of people were standing–standing because there were no more seats.
“My name is Branson,” he said, “and Damien–” His voice cracked and he stared down at the casket in front of him. Getting hold of his emotions, he continued in a hushed voice. “Damien died saving my life.
“I don’t know how or why we became friends. He was a good guy: respected his parents, loved his brother and sister, didn’t smoke or cuss or drink; he went to church, took an active part in it. He loved Jesus and wanted other people to know Him too.
“Me? My parents were separated and I didn’t get along with either one. My sister and I either fought or ignored each other. I avoided church, mocked Christians, thought God didn’t care about me or didn’t even exist. I started smoking and drinking as a teen and did drugs more than once. I got into trouble with the law and even went to jail.
“I worked with Damien, and one day he invited me to his place for supper. For some reason, I agreed. It wasn’t long before I was basically a part of the family.”
He took a deep breath and focused his gaze on “his family” sitting in the front row. “Five days ago, some guys got ahold of me and decided they wanted me dead. I fought ’em but–” He lifted his head and stared at the ceiling, fighting the tears. He pushed on even though his voice was choked.
“Damien showed up, and-and tried to stop them. Then he threw himself in front of me, blocking the bullet.”
He couldn’t hold the tears back anymore, but people all around the room were crying with him. There were so many family members and friends, so many lives touched by the young man soon to be buried.
“He was always saying that Jesus died for him–died to save him–and if-if he ever had to give up his life to save somebody else, well, he’d do it in a heartbeat. And he did; he gave up his life. To save me.”
Branson gulped in a shuddering breath and swiped at his tears. “I wasn’t ready to die then, and Damien knew that. But-but I am now, and when I get to heaven someday, I’m going to give him a big hug and thank him for showing me what love really looks like.”
Greater love hath no man than this,John 15:13 (KJV)
that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid his life for us:1 John 3:16 (KJV)
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.