French Policeman Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame has drowned out the story of of the evil wrought by his killer

A person puts their life in danger to protect another. Often it’s a police officer or a soldier. It’s a familiar story often reported in newspapers. Usually, there is a happy ending but sometimes the person makes the ‘ultimate sacrifice’. We laud them as heroes and honour them. Rightly so.

Last week Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame was one such person. He was the French policeman who risked his life when he swapped places with a hostage in the French supermarket siege. His murderer was a man whose heart had been captured by an evil ideology.

Arnaud lost his life. We can’t ask him why he did what he did. But his life, the way he lived it and what he openly believed in, tell his story for him. Arnaud had had an ‘authentic conversion’ to Christianity in his 30s. Those who knew him have described how his faith shone out of him as a force for good. Christ’s words that “greater love has no one that he lays down his life for his friends,” were familiar to him. Arnaud was a martyr, a witness to his faith.

We honour Arnaud’s courage and heroic sacrifice, inspired by self-giving love, which are in stark contrast to the actions of his killer, motivated by hatred.

Arnaud’s story is news this week. It has drowned out the story of the evil wrought by his killer. His example warms our hearts and moves us to compassion for his grieving bride and family, including his elderly mother.

If the sacrifice of a martyr like Arnaud is good news, it helps us to see why Jesus’ death and miraculous resurrection are called good news. Where Arnaud rescued one hostage from the jaws of death, Jesus defeated death itself, rising to life on the third day. By death and resurrection he has opened up the possibility of eternal life for each one of us.

Arnaud and Jesus both gave their lives as a conscious act of love. They did so in the face of hate and showed that love conquers all. Even death.

Is Arnaud the ‘loser’? He lost his life, but it is Arnaud, not his killer, making the headlines. Perhaps that is a clue to why millions of people in every part of the world are celebrating the true story of Jesus’ death and resurrection this Easter.

- Dr Alan Smith is Bishop of St Albans