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Summary: Saving Private Ryan tell us to "Earn This," jsut as Paul encourages us to live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Tomorrow is Memorial Day. A day set aside by our nation to honor those men and women who have died serving our country. Our Baptist heritage and principles hold firmly to the separation of church and state. Neither entity shall encroach nor assert undo influence upon the other. I agree, but I also believe that the original framers of our constitution and our Baptist heritage understood and realized that the Church and State would never completely unravel from each other, for one of the primary founding principles of this nation was the worship of God. Our currency proclaims “In God we trust.” Our Pledge of Allegiance states, “One nation under God.” Forgive me, if on this day, I seek to lead us in the worship of God while remembering and honoring those who have faithfully served our country.

This Memorial Day Weekend takes on an added significance and a heavier burden for many, as we now live in a nation referred to as “post September 11th.” We currently have troops both here and abroad who are in the midst of an international terrorist crisis. As we come together this morning to worship, we must acknowledge the emotions that surround the Memorial Day Weekend. What are your thoughts? What are your feelings?

The story that unfolds in the movie, “Saving Private Ryan,” kept coming to my mind this past week. The movie is set in France during World War II. The defense department receives notice that a midwestern family currently has four sons serving in the war, three of whom have been killed. Their fourth son is in France. The military makes the decision that no mother should suffer the tragedy of losing four sons to war, so they send a team after this last son; Private Ryan.

The team must overcome countless obstacles, not to mention the enemy, in their search for Private Ryan. Along the way, members of their team are wounded and killed. They begin to ask why the life of this one private should be deemed more important than the lives being sacrificed to bring him home? Why is his welfare held in higher regard than theirs? Tom Hanks is the leader of the outfit in search of Ryan. He does his best to maintain the focus of his men, telling them that it’s not their place to question, but rather to accept their mission and carry out their orders. Their duty is to their country, and their country has asked this of them.

Finally, they locate Ryan. They tell him that they have orders to retrieve him and get him home, but Ryan doesn’t want to leave his unit. Ryan’s unit has orders to keep a group of German tanks from crossing a bridge, until adequate air support can arrive. If they can’t hold off the tanks, then they’re to blow up the bridge. Ryan’s honor and sense of duty to his unit would not allow him to walk away from an encounter that could cost his comrades their lives. He didn’t feel justified in leaving for freedom and safety and leaving them to fight.

Ryan convinces Hanks and his outfit to stay and fight, promising to leave with them after the battle. Hanks agrees, but only if Ryan will stay out of harm’s way, so he can make it back home. A bloody battle ensues in which many lives are lost. Hanks’ entire outfit is killed, but they save Private Ryan. There’s a gripping scene at the end, in which Hanks is dying. Ryan comes to help, but Hanks tells him to go on, and then he says to Private Ryan, “Earn this.”

Paul, in writing to the Philippians, tells them, “Earn this:” live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Think about that; living a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Are we, and what exactly does it mean to live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Paul outlines it for us.

It means to stand firm in one spirit. One of the more difficult things for any group is to stand united in one spirit, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a political group, an athletic team, a school board, county supervisors, or even a church. Standing united in one spirit is difficult, because it means putting aside one’s self for the sake of the group, for the sake of the unifying spirit. Paul’s request of the Philippians is that they stand firm within the spirit of Jesus Christ. The message for us is to also stand firm in the spirit of Jesus Christ.

Christians are going to disagree. Members of the same church are going to disagree. There have been, and undoubtedly there will be again, disagreements within this body, but whenever there’s a decision to be made and people disagree, whether it’s about a parking lot, a budget, a new building, or a new ministry focus, Christians are supposed to consider, “God, what would you have us do?” Standing firm in one spirit means putting aside personal preferences and personal agendas to truly discover God’s leadership.

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