This past Thursday was the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a day that will forever be historic for the bravery and courage of the men and women who stormed Omaha Beach in order to break through enemy lines. Countless movies and documentaries have tried to depict what happened on that day, but in many ways the sheer awe and magnitude of that moment in time is something I feel we will never fully understand or appreciate. But I think that D-Day is remembered for another aspect of what it represents — an instance when brave men and women were willing to sacrifice themselves and die for those whom they loved and for a country on behalf of which they were fighting.
One reason we remember and celebrate the accomplishments of D-Day is because that type of sacrifice and love does not come around every day. It is not a normal occurrence that one would run toward unprecedented opposition and danger for the purpose of securing continued freedom and peace for those whom they love. Moments like that are fully worthy of celebration and admiration because it is those moments which remind us how deeply loved we are, even by those who have never met us.
On Memorial Day a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the following quote, which made me pause to think about that very fact: “Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you: Jesus Christ and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.” It is hard for me to thank God for the love and sacrifice of the men and women on the front lines without being brought back to another similar, yet vitally different, moment of love and sacrifice found 2,000 years ago on a hill with the unforgettable name of “The Place of the Skull.” It is that picture and example of sacrificial love that I believe shapes the powerful actions of those we remember on days such as D-Day.
In the book of Romans, Paul spends the first few chapters showing his readers that all of mankind has gone astray from the way that God had created them to live and, because of that, they are seemingly without hope in this world . This included the religious of the day, the non-religious, and everyone in between. But Paul’s climax comes in Romans 3:23-26 when he writes, “(for) all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.” Paul says that, although everyone has gone astray, they now have been set free from their hopelessness through the work of Jesus and His Cross, the effect of which occurs when we believe in Him. He then continues this argument in Romans 5:6-8 when he says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
And here is the point: Although one could conceive of sacrificing themselves for the sake of someone they love, “God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus didn’t come and die just for his friends and for those who showed their support of him; instead, he came and died for you and me — enemies of God who spend most of our lives trying to do our own thing. The love that is evident in the sacrifice of someone who is willing to die for those who may never appreciate it is a love that withstands the test of time. That type of love should give us pause to stop and think, “How can it be that you would die for me?” That is why we don’t forget moments in time like D-Day. When someone is willing to die for you, especially when they know who you really are, it is worthy of celebration and remembrance.
So remember the love and sacrifice that was shown by the soldiers 75 years ago for the sake of your freedom and peace. But also remember the love and sacrifice that was shown by Jesus on the cross 2000 years ago for the sake of your eternal freedom and peace. Both examples of love are amazing and unforgettable, but only one of them has eternal and effectual implications. As the well-known pastor Tim Keller says about Paul’s point in Romans 5, “Therefore, you can know objectively and beyond all doubt that God loves you — even if your feelings or the appearance of your life circumstances might be prompting you to wonder.” If you are wondering if you are loved, look to the Cross of Calvary and wonder no more.
Dan Hoffstetter is associate pastor at Lanesville Congregational Church.