In “Saving Private Ryan”, it opens with the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944 (this was very realistic and gory, so be prepared if you watch it – it will shock the senses). Members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, under Captain Miller, fight ashore to secure a beachhead. Amidst the fighting, two brothers are killed in action. Earlier in New Guinea, a third brother is KIA. Their mother, Mrs. Ryan, is to receive all three of the grave telegrams on the same day. The United States Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, is given an opportunity to alleviate some of her grief when he learns of a fourth brother, Private James Ryan, and decides to send out 8 men (Captain. Miller and select members from 2nd Rangers) to find him and bring him back home to his mother. These 8 men laid down their lives, and died, to accomplish this mission. Private James Ryan was reunited with his mother.
The senselessness of war gripes you firmly. Loss of life and the harshest conditions known to man are found in war. There is nothing glorious about it. War is hell. But in it’s midst, there are ordinary men who do extraordinary feats during these times.
Private James Ryan lived the rest of his life knowing that 8 men set out and laid down their lives, just for him. He didn’t deserve it. He didn’t even want it… but they did. And he lived with the memory of Captain Miller, laying mortally wounded, and with his dying words, gasped, “Earn this.”
In the closing scene, James Ryan, as an old man, addresses Captain Miller’s grave and says, “My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.”
Ryan’s Wife stands behind him:,”James?…” He looks at her with tears welling up in his eyes, and asks, “Tell me I have led a good life.” “What?”, she questions. “Tell me I’m a good man.” “You are“, she replies. She walks away and James Ryan stands back and salutes.
The concept of a man laying down his life for another is not new to me. But for the one whose life was redeemed… was it lived worthy of the sacrifice made for it?
That question haunted me.
Because as a Christian I have been redeemed through the sacrifice of Jesus on a Cross. [more details here]
I find myself in the shoes of Private Ryan. I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t even want it. But nevertheless, Jesus made that sacrifice for me. He did it for you too… for all mankind.
And a time will come, sooner or later, when we all will look back to this gracious act and ask, “Did I live a life worthy of such a sacrifice?”
For me, my opportunity came sooner – and this was my startling discovery. For whenever I reflect on it, it moves me deeply because I feel I fall short of this honour… but each time my resolve is strengthened and I strive to obey Jesus’ words:
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.