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Posts Tagged ‘Sacrifice’

At my son’s church recently, the words to this hymn were projected on the screen while the pianist played the tuned. I wanted to sing it, but the reflection of words and music while I held the cup was intense and instructive.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
‘Tis the long-expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
By His Son, God now has spoken
Tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear him groaning,
Was there ever grief like his?
Friends thro’ fear his cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress;
Many hands were raised to wound him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ’s the Rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on him their hope have built.

Thomas Kelly, Psalms and Hymns, 1802

The tune is wholly appropriate for the words: The Cyber Hymnal 6349. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted | Hymnary.org, a dirge tune if there ever was one. God made a most terrible event on a dark day (Matthew 27:45) into a glorious rescue mission (Acts 2:22-39).

“Here may view its nature rightly” struck me with considerable force. We play around with our little white lies and fleshly indulgences, but my sin caused the Savior’s cruel death. And then on the heels of this hard and convicting news is the strong hope and confidence we have in “Christ, the Rock of our salvation.”

Seeing how sinful, low, and helpless we are exalts the greatness of His mercy and grace all the more. We should dwell on the utter sinfulness of our sin only long enough to repent of it and see the height of salvation to which we run for refuge, comfort, and power for living.

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Storm the beaches
Drop from the sky
Normandy’s far reaches
Every angle try

Rain of bullets
Take cover or die
Blood is freedom’s droplets
Shed in full supply

Wrench from tyrants
All sorts of slaves
All that conscience supplants
Against reason raves

Surge forward now
Pill boxes defeat
Start liberation now
Rescue not complete

Push over fields
Free every town
Freedom to no man yields
Made them renown

Always has been
Good and evil fight
Freedom will at last win
Wrong bow to right

 

 

For my thoughts on D-Day, see “D-Day Remembrance of Freedom”

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A few months ago I heard about a student at my school who will be speaking at the 75th anniversary remembrance of D-Day in Normandy, France. I began to wander, what level of perspective he could possibly have on the subject? He doesn’t even remember 9/11, let alone D-Day. But how silly of me to think that, since I don’t have a contemporary or first hand knowledge of the event either. Instead, I think that the young man and I may add two generations of perspective to what we may learn from and remember about the events on the those beaches. In some ways I have already (see “Memory Lapse” and “Allegiance” and “Has the World Really Changed?”) So, I consider, given the opportunity, what would I say on such an occasion?

I think that the wider issue concerning such a remembrance runs deeper than the extent of sacrifices made on that day, significant though they be. Such events, with their terrible tragedy and selfless sacrifice point to the reason such events have happened and must continue to happen. Freedom has always and must always be fought for.

Perhaps the nature of war has changed in 75 years and such all out attacks may not need to occur again, but there do continue to be individuals, groups, and nations that want to destroy freedom and those who have it and love it. Why is this so? All honest people must admit that the vices of hatred, envy, and murder reside in the heart of us all and we are all capable of evil acts given the opportunity and circumstances. Apart from God’s grace I am capable of heinous sins and persistent failings. But in reality, many people refuse to admit to total depravity, an internal sin nature inherited from our father, Adam. But it exists and thrives, nonetheless, being clearly taught in Scripture (Romans 5:12-14, I Corinthians 15:21-22, Romans 3:23, Romans 7:14-25, Ephesians 3:5-9).

And so, were I to give a speech on that occasion, I believe I would speak in some part similar to the following:

On this occasion of the 75th anniversary of the combat operation called D-Day, we come to remember the bravery and sacrifice of men who fought for the freedom of others and for the grand concept of Freedom. The depth of depravity lodged against the French people and the world at that time demanded an all out battle to preserve our freedoms. The soldiers who labored here helped to secure those freedoms in their generation.

It is not as though this battle was the only time our nations have fought together for freedom. The French formed a decisive shield for the fledgling nation of the United States at Yorktown. We are grateful.

But I think that it is reasonable to ask, why do we value Freedom so much? Afterall, men do not run into a rain of bullets to preserve their own freedom. They fulfill their duty for the sake of the freedom of others and for freedom in the world. Those others for whom they purchase freedom include people for whom they care: family, friends, comrades, community, and freedom-loving people of all nations. Freedom in the world is a concept, an ideal, as well as a way of living. What motivates an individual to die for a concept?

I believe this motivation is lodged in what it means to be a person. Without freedom one comes to realize that he/she is less than a person. Personhood does not necessitate autonomy, but it does require some ability to act in accord with one’s own conscience. Those who love freedom preserve it with their watchfulness and sacrifice. But those who hate freedom have given it up to serve some lesser fear or pleasure.

Indeed, the sacrifices exhibited here are a testimony to the greater freedom which we are in danger of losing. As modern men and women we seek for what several writers* have called “negative freedom”, which is being free from interference or constraint. But this type of freedom is a dim shadow of the greater “positive freedom”, which is the state of reaching full potential as a person. We may reach that state in the midst of great constraint and even threat of death. Therefore, people fighting for freedom both to preserve it and to be free in the act of gaining it, are free. Their sacrifice is reasonable, purposeful, and laudable.

We stand here in appreciation of those who bought and preserved our freedom. Thankfulness must needs do more than say thanks. True thankfulness will honor the wishes of those who sacrificed here. What then would those freedom fighters want from us but to preserve and rightly utilize freedom.

In order to fulfill this duty, we need to know the source and way of freedom. The Scripture says that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” (James 1:17) Freedom is such a gift to be utilized in giving glory to the Giver and help to all within reach of us. And the deepest and truest freedom is internal. If we have peace with God, peaceful intention toward our neighbor, and peace within, we are truly free. And the source of freedom is given to those who “have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) So how should we now live? “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil” (I Peter 2:16) And “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

So then, fellow freedom lovers, seek the true everlasting freedom so that you may also extend freedom to all those for whom you care and even to those enemies of freedom who do not yet know how good freedom is. Remember those who have cherished freedom more than life and sacrificed to purchase and preserve it for you. Fulfill your duty to procure and promote freedom for all who will own it, fighting against all who will try to destroy it. With the keeping of these duties those who fought here would be pleased and their sacrifices are then valued.

*https://www.productiveflourishing.com/two-concepts-of-freedom/

[Also check out the following passages: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36) “Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin.” (Acts 13:39) “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:28)]

 

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