The Grateful Life
"Did I live a good life"
Question asked by Private Ryan at the gravesite of those who died for him
Saving Private Ryan, 1998
Many of my readers know that I have been a outspoken critic of war as a public policy and that I strongly believe that Jesus calls us to be instruments of peace in a world that is often hostile and violent. With that being said, I still deeply reasonate with the men and women who have sacrificed their lives, their health, their careers, their relationships, and their dreams to protect our country as well as others, from tyranny and destruction.
On Good Friday, we take time to contemplate the meaning of Jesus' death on the cross. As we reflect, I find that there is a natural tendency to spiritualize his death. We sanitize the cross. It is not a splintered, bloody, atrocious method of torture, but a golden emblem that we wear as jewelry or wear as a tattoo. We spiritualize the death into theologically neat categories whereas we see His death as a means of our atonement, propitiation, justification, and initial sanctification. While those things are true, they serve to keep us from truly contemplating the gravity of the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God, the sinless one, the lover of our souls.
In the movie "Saving Private Ryan", a soldier and his brothers take part in the intial large American invasion of Europe in World War II. All of his brothers are killed in action on the first day. Learning this fact, the commanding General orders that this private be found and brought home so that the family may be preserved. A group of men are assigned to go through some of the most horrific battles in order to find Private Ryan and bring him home. In the process, the men succeed in bringing him home, but all give their lives in the process. When the commanding officer lay dying (played by Tom Hanks), he simply says "Earn it". In other words, do not allow their sacrifice to be in vain, but live a life that was worth the sacrifice.
This is the way that we best contemplate the death of Christ. He died for us, for you. He literally died upon the most gruesome torturing contraption ever created so that you have life. We are asked by Jesus' protege Paul, who also suffered extensively, to "live a life worthy of the calling you have received".
In light of the sacrifice of good men, how should we live? That was Private Ryan's struggle and inspiration. Today, in light of the sacrifice of God himself, our creator, the lover of our souls, how should we live? What does his death for us mean pragmatically, practically, and personally?
There is a temptation for those who have been in church for a while, to focus on the cross as a means to appease the wrath of God against sin. We can celebrate that through faith in Jesus, we do receive forgiveness of sin (II Corinthians 5:21). However, the greatest way of understanding the cross is to focus on the cross as a means to appease the love of God for us. God, so loved the world.... (John 3:16-17). Our sin was an obstacle in our receiving and giving love. The cross allowed us to experience the love of God and share the love of God freely. This means that we live for God according to love, not according to fear.
In light of such great love that led to such a great sacrifice for you, how will you live? Will you spend every minute being grateful for the sacrifice that was made and being desirous to live a life that is "worthy" of the sacrifice for you?
I hope on this Good Friday that you experience the love of God in a profound way as you contemplate the cross.
May God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor