The swap that saved a life
When Beltrame encountered terrorism, he let his faith guide him and saved a life. | Photo Courtesy of masonicfootnotes.com
Throughout the Lenten season, many Christians wrestle with the idea of sacrifice. Some may choose to give something up for the 40-day season in order to “suffer as Christ suffered,” while others may engage in self-denial and prayer to deepen their faith. Like many other Christians, a French police officer named Arnaud Beltrame, also grappled with this issue. Having joined the Roman Catholic Church just ten years earlier, he strove to let his faith guide him in all aspects of life.
Terror in Trèbes
Two days before Palm Sunday, Beltrame was called to a hostage situation at a supermarket. Radouane Lakdim, a 26-year-old French-Moroccan, had recently declared his allegiance to ISIS and broken into a local supermarket in Trèbes. There, he killed two men, took others captive and began to negotiate with the police. The police worked to secure the release of all the hostages over the next 30 minutes with little success. In the end, Lakdim was persuaded to free all but one, a woman who was certain that she was going to die.
It is hard to imagine what was going through Beltrame’s head as he watched these events unfold outside of the supermarket and witnessed his fellow police officers struggling to get all the hostages out. Not being able to help the one woman remaining inside must have felt demoralizing. What more could they do? At this point, something unimaginable took place. Signaling to his colleagues, Beltrame volunteered to replace the female hostage.
I have no doubt that Beltrame knew that this move could cost him his life. Yet, he felt an obligation to do so in order to save the life of another. He may have thought that he could sacrifice like Christ sacrificed. Many Christians believe Beltrame was led by his faith to act, because if he would not, then the woman would certainly die as the police closed in. As he wrestled with what to do, I imagine that he reflected on Christ’s words in John 15:13, which says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Going beyond the call of duty, Beltrame did what many of us could not do. On the eve of Holy Week, he took the woman’s place and went in by himself. He knew his life belonged to God and may have hoped that he could convince Lakdim to end the standoff. Unfortunately, after speaking with Lakdim for three hours, events took a turn for the worse and Beltrame was shot four times. In response to the gunfire, the police closed in and tried to rescue Beltrame but he passed away the very next morning.
What can we learn?
Like many of us, Beltrame wrestled with how he could live out his faith daily. Would he choose to live for Christ or for himself? As Christians we are to follow Jesus and his calling for our lives. It also means that we must die to our own desires and submit completely to God. For Beltrame, this meant using his gifts as a police officer and protecting the innocent from harm. As a result, when he encountered the woman in the hostage situation, he saw the image of God in her and sought to come to her aid. Driven by love, Beltrame sacrificed his life to save a stranger.
Beltrame’s example should challenge us to live sacrificially like Christ did. Yet what can we do here at Biola? As students, we need to look beyond ourselves and recognize others around us. We are not atomized beings floating around in our own little world, but beings created in the image of God for relationship with one another. Therefore, we are called to be open and vulnerable, and to take risks with people and our lives. Although this will be a challenge, the Christian life is not easy and we must be reminded that if we are to be children of God, we must also deny ourselves and place our hope and trust in Jesus to make a way.