We live in the greatest country the world has ever seen, and that is largely because from Day 1 men and women have been willing to lay down their lives in sacrifice for the good of the people around them.
In 1607 a group of Puritans arrived in Virginia seeking a place where they could worship God and be free from liberal influences. These people had previously been persecuted by the state-run church in England, then Holland when their children began to emulate the secular Dutch culture. Leaving everything behind, they came to America looking for a place of religious refuge. Many died during that first winter, but rather than return to England, they stayed because they knew it would ultimately be better for their children.
On April 19, 1775, shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, and the American Revolutionary War was under way. Once again, many brave men were willing to die so that others could live in freedom. On July 4th of the next year, the Declaration of Independence was signed, guaranteeing that freedom for all Americans.
That same spirit of bravery would be summoned over and over again in America’s history, and brave men and women would go around the globe to offer freedom to those who sought it. Americans fought off Nazis in Germany, Communists in Korea and Vietnam, and Terrorists in the Middle East.
Brave Americans stormed Normandy on D Day, battled back the Viet Cong, and collapsed the Soviet Union; they didn’t flinch when Castro’s Cuba threatened with missiles, or when Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party invaded Kuwait.
The bravery and sacrifice of American men and women has been displayed most recently on 9/11, when undrafted citizens enlisted to track down and kill Osama bin Laden. That sacrifice was seen at Ground Zero when firefighters and rescue workers ran into burning buildings at their own peril because they knew there more people inside. Each time they entered those Twin Towers they knew they might not come out.; finally, the World Trade Center buildings collapsed with many civilian and emergency workers still inside. 411 brave Americans made the ultimate sacrifice that day—340 firefighters, 23 NYPD officers, 37 Port Authority officers, 2 paramedics, and a chaplain.
The brave Americans aboard United Airlines Flight 93 also made a sacrifice. When their plane was hijacked, unarmed passengers used ink pens and coffee pots to take down box cutter-wielding terrorists, then crashed their own plane in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania so that it could not be used as a missile to the White House.
That was the first 9/11. The second 9/11 happened two years ago in Benghazi when terrorists stormed a U.S. Consulate, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The damage would have been worse, but brave Americans violated a stand down order and went to the consulate, saving several lives.
America is the greatest country in the history of the world because of the sacrifice of brave men and women who are willing to give all for other people. Brave people who live out “service before self,” who understand the concept of a greater of good, who live life with something bigger in mind.
The Bible says that no one has greater love than the one willing to lay down his life for someone else. Those words were spoken by Jesus Christ.
By far, the greatest sacrifice that was ever made was not on a battlefield or a crime scene; it was on a hill called Calvary. The sacrifice was not made by a soldier or paramedic, but by the very Son of God.
Jesus told His disciples that His love for them was what compelled Him to make that sacrifice. The Bible teaches that we are all sinners, separated from a holy God. The only way any human could ever have a relationship with God would be if one who never sinned took their place. Only Jesus could do that.
His death on the cross served as the perfect ransom; God allows our sins to be forgiven because He punished our sin by punishing Jesus. All who trust in that sacrifice and repent to God can be forgiven.
Many soldiers made sacrifices for their countrymen, especially the ones who served in the jungles of Vietnam and the deserts of Iraq. When they returned home they discovered that the media was against them. College students staged riots on campuses, Hollywood actors supported the enemy, protestors camped outside the White House, and aspiring politicians seized the opportunity to decry the same war many of them voted for. I can’t imagine what those soldiers must feel returning home to a country that seems opposed to their sacrifice.
Freedom is only as good as what we do with it. We can choose to hate the heroes and live as if we are under a dictatorship. We have the freedom to make that choice. It’s a foolish choice, but many choose it.
In the same way, Jesus sacrificed His life to die the most gruesome death in human history, and He is the most mocked figure on TV and comic strips. The freedom He offers is only as good as what we do with it. Will we accept it, and live for Him, or reject it, and live apart from Him?