The movie “Act of Valor” came out in 2012. It was unique in that the film’s characters were played by active Navy Seals. The story revolves around a platoon of Seals tracking down a fanatical terror network. The final confrontation takes place along a Mexican border town where the Seals engage the terrorists to stop them from entering the homeland. In the film’s climax, where art imitates life, Seal team leader Lt. Rorke forfeits his life by deliberately throwing himself on a grenade to save his friends.
Whether in combat or other exigent circumstances, acts of selfless heroism do actually happen. They’re extraordinary because of their rarity. Rarer still is sacrificing one’s own life, not for a friend, but for an enemy. Personally, I have never heard of such a thing, except for once…
As Paul writes: “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:7-10)
The Apostle John testified to the “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) But how was this to happen? The “Lamb” would willingly lay down His own life in order to save those who were, by nature, His “enemies.” But unlike Lt. Rorke in Act of Valor, the Lamb’s death would not be instantaneous or given in a moment of decision. No, the Lamb would be made to suffer a humiliating, drawn out, agonizing death. Certainly, Jesus knew what He was in for. Yet He was “obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8)
Oh, the love of God! And what does He ask in return for His cosmic sacrifice? “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12)
From “enemies” to redeemed “children” destined for an eternity in the presence of God. This is the good news and message of the gospel. It’s a message of love, sacrifice, and hope grounded in the record of history and the prophetic Word. It’s a message that even our cynical age can never fully quell.
The story is told of the young son of Scottish novelist George MacDonald, who after the son’s first encounter with the gospel was said to have remarked to his father what so many are tempted to believe, “that it’s a fairy tale, too good to be true.” To which the older McDonald replied, “Nay, Laddie, it is just so good that it must be true!”
Happy Easter Everyone!