Thursday, October 29, 2009

Courage of Fools ...

We owe a debt we cannot repay. There are heroes among us who put self-interest aside and risk the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country, to their fellow citizens, to us. There are many reasons why they choose to do this, but what is asked of them requires the same measure of risk and resolve from each. There is legacy found here when looking back you can trace a lineage of service in the faces of prior generations, of fathers, and grandfathers, and pictures long since faded into yellow. It is a tradition of heroism. It is a task that requires bravery tested in blood. It calls for the daring, and the courage of fools.

“There is no greater sacrifice than for a man to lay down his life for his friends.” Christ knew what He was talking about. In this statement He reveals the sanctity of life, and the precious gift our soldiers, our policemen, our first responders, and our emergency services workers often yield for us. Their professions demand accomplishing mission over self preservation. Military commanders have often had to order men into impossible scenarios to achieve victory, knowing they ask their men to yield up their lives. The men understand the request, and follow the orders. Sometimes hope and against hope, they prevail, but when this does not occur, both accept what is required of them.

It is against self interest to take on a responsibility that may demand your very life. It is against the very essence of our nature to defy self-preservation to accomplish a greater goal. Thinking, men of reason, would call this foolish. They would say it makes no sense to yield up one’s life in the pursuit of any cause. But intelligence cannot defeat evil, sometimes blood is required. And thinking, reasoned men, have the luxury of analysis, because it is paid for by the blood of those “fools” who were willing to pay it. We owe a debt we cannot repay.

When asked why they fight, service men seem to always reply their primary reason is the brother who fights beside them. “Brothers in arms” means something when under fire. Policemen never earn salaries that even approach those of the drug dealers, and organized criminals they may encounter, yet their honor demands they continue fighting a battle against crime they can never hope to fully win. An EMT runs into the face of explosions, and scenes of horror of every kind, to seek out the dying, the injured, the helpless, and bring them relief. All risk life and limb to perform these jobs. All must find courage in the face of danger. All must face death in a moment’s notice.

I stand in awe at the courage of these men and women. I am speechless when I consider the depth of sacrifice that has already been made so that my life could exist as it does. How do you repay courage of this magnitude? How do you even begin to understand what someone else lost on your behalf? The fallen are heroes without measure. Those that serve still are titans on the earth. But there is one I admire most of all …

No, not my paternal grandfather who saw action in the Pacific theatre during World War II. He went from enlisted to a full bird colonel in the Army Air Force in that war from his leadership and bravery. He now rests in Arlington, next to his wife who joined him some years ago. Nor do I admire my maternal grandfather who saw action in the European theatre, working as an experimental airplane mechanic, fixing new machines, mid-air, risking death on many levels. He and his wife are now at rest as well. My father and many uncles served and they too are heroic to me, even though there is one I admire even more.

For me, I look back even further. I stand in awe of the courage and fortitude it took, to forsake the throne, and become a servant of all. I cannot imagine the restraint required when you have the ability to vanquish your enemies with but a word; instead you keep silent sealing your own doom, to accomplish the greater goal. I cannot fathom the courage it took to hold up under torture, ultimate humiliation, and then death by those who you came to save. How could He do it? What could keep Him resolved in the face of this insanity? Why am I so worth saving? Why am I so loved?

You see our current heroes that serve in the military, and on the front lines of danger, do not know me personally. They sacrifice for me, but only in the context of my belonging to the country, or the neighborhood, or the community in which they are familiar. While my debt to them is still real, and frankly unpayable, we speak in the language of the collective, not of the individual. I try to honor them by adhering to the laws our nation sets up, and paying the tax burden I owe to help fund their needs. But my feeble efforts at honoring those who serve cannot even begin to repay what so many, even in the collective, have done for me. In tandem, they allow me to live.

But where Christ is concerned, the collective language ceases to be relevant. It is me He came to save. It is my sin that needs to be removed from me. It is my death, my torture, and my separation from God that He paid in my stead. It is my sin He died for, so that I could live. And He would have done it, if only for me. Forget the Roman guard who nailed His precious hands to the uncomfortable cross; the hammer sits in my hands as with every fresh new evil I indulge in, I must pound away anew. His aching flesh must cringe under my hammer and my nails. It is me who puts the crown of thorns and humiliation on to His perfect brow. I push down on it. I see His blood flow from what I thought “necessary” in my life. Oh the cost of my decisions, of my actions, of my self-interest. I owe a debt I can never repay.

This is the primary reason why the entire plan of Salvation devised by God to save us from evil is a gift. It is because no-one would ever be capable of repaying it. Were we to purchase our redemption, no price could ever be enough. Were we to try to earn it, our efforts would look so pathetic next to the level of sacrifice He made. Just as we accept the sacrifice of our heroes today, owing them a debt we know can never be repaid – we can accept the gift and the sacrifice Christ has made for each of us. Our living heroes sacrifice to prolong our lives. Our Savior sacrificed to make the lives we live worth living. He died to free us from the self inflicted pain we have come to know as evil, or self-interest.

I serve no fascist Nazi figurehead as both my grandfather’s risked life and limb to defeat them, and prolong our freedom and way of life. And I need not serve the dictator that lives in my mirror whose history of trying to serve only self, leads only to pain; because of the freedom my Savior offers to me as a gift so precious. Christ longs to recreate the core of who I am, as I allow Him to. As I learn to submit my will to Him, I die daily, and a new creature is reborn within me – not of my design, but of His. In this we are capable of so much more than we ever imagined. In experiencing Salvation the good news of the gospel is reborn within us, not as words of a story, but as a life altering experience that removes the self-inflicted pain we have been slave to so long.

There is a courage I have never experienced but appreciate beyond the measure of my soul. There is a debt I cannot repay and a sacrifice I will never be worthy of, but I will accept. May we learn to embrace perfect submission to Christ, and in so doing begin to honor those around us, who have given so much of themselves for us. May we finally learn that in submission lies perfect service …

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