Summary: This sermon is a celebration of the armed forces in the united states and a demonstration of the love and sacrifice that the military live in their service to our nation. It also shows the love and sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Based on Rom 12:9-12
Today is a special day in our church calendar. It’s not a holiday. It’s not a specific celebration of any historical event, person or location. It’s a day we set aside to honor and remember the members of the Armed Forces who have served our nation so well. We honor them because their service has granted us the many rights and privileges we enjoy each and every day. They serve in dangerous war zones, far away from home. They serve on the streets of developing countries, maintaining the peace. They serve on flight lines keeping skies free of danger. ] They serve on ships, deployed for months at a time. In short, they serve far away from their family and friends, in uncomfortable surroundings, all volunteers to protect the freedoms of this country. Today, we honor our soldiers, sailors, airman, marines and coast guardsmen who have served today and in years past.
As part of that honor to our veterans, today’s message is built around the Romans 12 passage you heard a moment ago. In this passage, Paul is writing to the church in Rome and extoling the virtues of Christian values. Among those values, love and sacrifice are paramount for Christian conduct. This morning, I want to take a closer look at these two concept and show how both Christians and the military live out both.
Love and Sacrifice
I’d like to start with a story that outlines what sacrifice really is. In Ernest Gordon’s book, Miracle on the River Kwai, he described events based on World War II and the building of a bridge in the jungles of Burma. In the story, Scottish soldiers were forced by their Japanese captors to labor on the creation of a railroad through inhospitable surroundings. The work conditions degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon something happened:
A shovel was missing. The Japanese officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot. It was obvious the officer meant what he had said. Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man. One man had claimed responsibility for the missing tool, and paid the ultimate price, his own life.
When it was over, the survivors picked up the body and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first checkpoint.
The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others! The incident had a profound effect. The men began to treat each other like brothers.
When the victorious Allies swept in, the survivors, human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors. Instead of attacking their captors, they protected them and insisted: “no more hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness.”
The sacrifice of this one man changed the hearts of those around him. He knew that he was innocent, yet he chose to take the blame just the same. He faced the punishment to save the others. He showed his love for his fellow soldiers through his own sacrifice. With this action, he placed the needs of his brothers-in-arms, over his own.
Similarly, when the allies liberated the camp, the Scottish soldiers defended their captors. Again, we see the action of love, instead of revenge. We see a Christian attitude of love, where others might have chosen to attack their Japanese guards.
God willing, we will never be faced with a situation as grim as this one. But we can still impact those around us by our actions. The values of love and sacrifice can have a unique effect on everyone around you. As the song goes, we can show we are Christians by our Love.
Major Sullivan Ballou
Let me explain another story of how our military members, and their families give so much to us. Both the service members that deploy, and the families left behind, sacrifice much of their lives and their life style for the defense of our nation.
Our men and women of the Armed Forces often ensure hardships that most of American society can hardly imagine. Our service members have to leave their families behind as they move forward to more dangerous areas. Often, the service members and their families are separated for months at a time. Sometimes, the families endure the loss of a loved one. Such was the case of Major Sullivan Ballou and his wife Sara.
Major Ballou was an Army soldier of the Union who fought during the Civil War. He wrote to his wife about one week before he was killed at the First Battle of Bull Run. He wrote a lengthy love letter, but the letter was not delivered until after his death.