Steven Spielberg’s WW II movie, “Saving Private Ryan,” is the profoundly moving story of a squad of soldiers sent on a mission deep into a battle zone to bring out a young paratrooper, Private James Ryan, whose three brothers had been killed in battle. The army’s chief of staff, General George C. Marshall, had personally ordered Private Ryan sent home to his mother because he thought three sons were enough for any mother to contribute to the war.
The squad leader, Captain John Miller, and half of his squad gave their lives in the mission to bring Ryan home. As he sat propped up against a bombed out car on a bridge, Miller’s dying words to Ryan were, “Earn this.” The scene switches to 1998, as a much older Ryan falls to his knees at Miller’s grave and tearfully chokes out these words: “Every day I think about what you said to me on that bridge. I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes I have earned what all of you have done for me.” Ryan turns to his wife and asks, “Tell me I’m a good man?”
Why does he ask? Ryan never got over the sacrifice Miller and his men made for his life. He appreciated what they did for him. He owed his life to them, a debt he could never repay. What else could he do but try to live a life worthy of the price that was paid for him?
We all can understand that. Perhaps no one has died to save our physical lives, but Jesus endured the agony of the cross so we could have the priceless gift of abundant life today and eternal life hereafter. We have been “bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). Christ “died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15). While we can never repay Christ for what he did for us, we can live a life that honors his sacrifice. Embedded in the gospel of Jesus Christ is a call for response, an urgency to share it with others. That’s how we show appreciation.
Your ongoing witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ flows out of the internal motivations you properly feel for the one who died to set you free from the power and penalty of sin. My desire is that you will be captivated by three great, very personal motivations for sharing your faith. These were the motivations that compelled the apostle Paul and the early church to testify about the risen Christ, in spite of the danger they faced for telling the truth.
In the next entry we will look at the first and greatest motivation.