The French Officer Who Swapped Places with a Hostage

Text: 1 John 4:7-21

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” —John 15:13

Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame has become a hero throughout France, known for his self-sacrifice, patriotism and Christian faith. The 45-year-old Lieutenant Colonel was killed during a hostage standoff with an Islamic extremist, after volunteering to trade places with a female hostage in Trèbes, France. While being awarded the Legion of Honor at his funeral, the nation’s highest honor, French President Emmanuel Macron compared Beltrame’s sacrifice to those of France’s World War II heroes and said his example would “remain etched in French hearts.”

Beltrame offered his life to stop death. His courage beckoned him to save life, even at the price of his own. A person well acquainted with Beltrame said, “Only his faith can explain the madness of this sacrifice which is today the admiration of all.” His mother attested that when she heard the news that a gendarme had swapped himself for a hostage, she immediately “knew it was him,” noting he’s always been like that.

Two thousand years ago, the Son of God stepped into a hostage situation with a willingness to swap His life for others. Sin had taken the human race captive, holding us hostage to our own demise when Jesus gave up his life as a ransom for our freedom. He came to set us free… from ourselves (Romans 3:23). Our sin deserves the punishment of death (Romans 6:23), the very punishment that Jesus absorbed in our place on the cross (1 Peter 2:24).

After taking our sins upon himself, Christ died and rose again for our justification so that we might have life eternal—sin-overcoming, death-defying, here and beyond—life without end.

When Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” he was giving Christianity its very fundamental core. Sacrificial love is what gave Christianity its DNA—love that is undeserving I might add. “Where Love is, God is,” proposed Henry Drummond. In our devotional text, John’s epistle says it beautifully:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” —1 John 4:7-12

The apostle goes on to charge that anyone who says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, is a liar. The unmistakable hallmark of those who truly follow Jesus is this DNA of love—By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35). God is love (1 John 4:8)—He’s always been like that—therefore when his people walk in love, their DNA takes on the identifiable likeness of Jesus (1 John 4:7).

D.L. Moody noted:

“The world does not understand theology or dogma, but it understands love and sympathy… If we have got the true love of God shed abroad in our hearts, we will show it in our lives. We will not have to go up and down the earth proclaiming it. We will show it in everything we say or do.”

May this love, His love, become so much the DNA of our lives that despite all of our shortcomings and failures, and beyond our promulgated belief systems, the world will know that we have been with Jesus—that God abides in us and his love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12). Think about that as you seek to abide in His love this week.


Jesus, thank you for becoming my ransom on the cross—exchanging your life for mine when you died to take the punishment of my sins. I didn’t deserve your mercy or that kind of love. But LOVE is what you are—it’s what you’ve always been. Teach me how to love others with the same measure that you have loved me. For this is what it means to have your love perfected in me. In your name, I pray, amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. Apart from Jesus, who has sacrificed the most for you in life?
  2. When has love been a great motivator in your life?
  3. Though Christianity was born out of a radical, self-sacrificing, and humble expression of loving others, why do you think many in our generation find it hard to see God as LOVE?
  4. Why, and how, should God’s love motivate you to love others?
  5. Is there someone you have had a hard time getting along with that you need to ask God to help you love this week?

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