Saturday, April 2, 2011

Earn this

First, a disclaimer:
This will be a familiar post to those few who having been reading my blog since its earliest days, so I apologize to you seven. However, since it's almost impossible for a person to completely regurgitate words spoken or written just a few days ago, it's highly unlikely I'll come close to repeating what I wrote three years ago.

I've been thinking about what I wrote the other day about what it really means to walk with Christ daily, honoring Him in heart and action, giving preference to each other, loving each other extravagantly (as Eugene Peterson would say).  But there are also standards for His disciples that set us apart from the world.  I am not contradicting my previous post, because I am convinced that those standards are the love, peace and joy I wrote about the other day.  Or at least marinated in them, if that makes sense.

But just now, as I was standing in the shower, it hit me.  It's "Saving Private Ryan."  Of course.  You know the movie.  This company of soldiers, after surviving the barrage at Omaha Beach (when so many of their comrades did not) were given the task of finding a single soldier, James Ryan, who was somewhere among the many spread out across France.  All of his brothers had been killed in combat, and the powers in Washington weren't about to allow the last son to also die, leaving their mother bereaved of all her children.  These soldiers were clearly NOT enamored of this task.  They wanted to be fighting.  And they--as much as Private Ryan--deserved to go home.  But their captain kept pressing onward, rallying them when their hearts were weakened, grieving himself when one of his own was lost.  He had no love for Private Ryan, but if saving him was one step closer to him getting back to his wife, his life, he'd do it.  Amen.

Of course, they find Ryan.  But Ryan won't leave his post.  There's a bridge to protect and the enemy almost upon them, and he's sorry about his brothers, but these are his brothers, too, after all.  So they all join in and fight, the captain telling Ryan that he'll only allow it if Ryan sticks like glue to him.  The battle is fierce, the losses are plenty, but finally fighter planes come, the bridge is saved, and the battle is over.  But in the last moments, the captain has been hit.  He makes it across the bridge, sits down, beckons Ryan to lean in, and says, "Earn this."

The first time I watched this movie, that moment took my breath away.  Right there in a nutshell, among bombs dropping from airplanes and men dying everywhere, was the gospel.  And the answer to the question, "How then shall we live?"  We don't have to earn our salvation, you know.  It He comes searching for us through all the battlefields of life, at great cost.  At the cost, ultimately, of His very life.  And for no more reason than we are who we are.  We deserve it simply because we were born ourselves.  But He doesn't hesitate to be the hound of heaven, to be the Easy Company (or whatever you want to name it) in the great war for our souls.  Once He grabs hold of us, He only asks that we stick like glue to Him as He does the fighting.  To stand and stand and stand firm, while He does all the work.  But it's the sacrifice of His life that makes the difference.  He gives His life.

And then He says, "Earn this."  After salvation, make our salvation count. Live out our lives so that what He did was not in vain.  Some people do, of course.  That is, they say they accept His salvation. But then they go about their selfish lives, living only for themselves with no thought or care for Him or anyone else in His world.  Makes you wonder if they get--really!--what He did.  Because how can it not change a person?  How can what He did NOT be the determining factor in every decision, every relationship? See, this is where my "Saving Private Ryan" analogy breaks down. Jesus didn't come in human form, with all its frailties and awkwardness out of duty or with any reluctance.  He came with purpose, with His head set for it, and with His heart bowed with love for that purpose.  With love for us.  That love, that wonderful, scandalous love is our salvation.  So live out your live like it counted.  That's what living life worthy of the gospel means. Earn this life, this new, transformed, life of grace.

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