In his book Planet in Rebellion, George Vandeman shares this story, “It was May 21, 1946. The place—Los Alamos. A young and daring scientist was carrying out a necessary experiment in preparation for the atomic test to be conducted in preparation for the atomic test to be conducted in the waters of the South Pacific atoll at Bikini.
“He had successfully performed such an experiment many times before. In his effort to determine the amount of U-235 necessary for a chain reaction—scientists call it the critical mass—he would push two hemispheres of uranium together. Then, just as the mass became critical, he would push them apart with his screwdriver, thus instantly stopping the chain reaction.
“But that day, just as the material became critical, the screwdriver slipped! The hemispheres of uranium came too close together. Instantly the room was filled with a dazzling bluish haze. Young Louis Slotin, instead of ducking and thereby possibly saving himself, tore the two hemispheres apart with his hands and thus interrupted the chain reaction.
“By this instant, self-forgetful daring, he saved the lives of the seven other persons in the room…. [A]s he waited…for the car that was to take them to the hospital, he said quietly to his companion, ‘You’ll come through all right. But I haven’t the faintest chance myself.’ It was only too true. Nine days later he died in agony.”
On Friday, Christians around the world will celebrate a day we call “Good Friday.” There was nothing good about the agony Jesus endured upon a cross! Yet we call the day of his death “Good” because of what his death did for us. Like Louis Slotin sacrificing his own life to tear apart those hemispheres of uranium in order to save the lives of his colleagues, Jesus threw himself in the way of sin and guilt and death to save us from them.
I love the way Paul Rees describes Good Friday: “The cross does not so much reveal God’s mind, that is, his infinite intellect…as it reveals his heart. It is God himself getting through to our hearts, tracking us down in our sins with love’s relentlessness, forgiving those sins, shattering the old self-centeredness of us, and putting God at the center of a new life and a new person.”
If Paul Rees is right, that Good Friday is about God putting himself at the center of a new person, then that means that Christ’s followers are to be people who are trying to love others like Jesus did.
The apostle Paul expressed this challenge in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Many churches offer Good Friday services, and I encourage you to attend one to celebrate his death on that day. But most of all I encourage you to celebrate Jesus’ loving sacrifice every day by seeking to “live a life of love” as Ephesians 5:2 encourages us. For as C. Neil Strait points out, “Love is the ingredient that makes every relationship in life, whatever it is, a little better. Love has a capacity to mend the broken, heal the hurting and inspire the despairing. Love that reaches beyond the misunderstandings and the failures is a love that unites and encourages. Such a love is one of our world’s greatest needs.”■
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa.