There have been stories of great heroism on the battlefield, when a soldier sacrifices their life for their fellow soldiers. These are always very inspiring stories. In the U.S. we honor the memory of those great sacrificial moments with a medal. This medal is the highest honor we are capable of bestowing. We call it the ‘Medal of Honor.’
The ONLY way to earn this medal – which is above ALL other medals – is to have either sacrificed your life, in which case the medal is awarded posthumously – or to have laid your life on the line completely sacrificially and survived. There have been very few Medal of Honor recipients who have survived to receive the medal, which is given in a special ceremony by the president.
My first mentor in Christ was a Vietnam vet who had laid on top of a grenade thrown in their foxhole, expecting the grenade to explode. His action would have spared the lives of his brothers. Fortunately, the grenade did not explode – but that did not take away from his sacrificial act. He was willing to die for those he thought highly of.
That we honor sacrificial action is without question. It is one of those values humans universally honor. Generally, however, sacrificial acts are performed for those who are highly regarded – as in the case of a husband dying to spare his wife or children. Those are the stories we hear and admire – and at least to some extent even understand and identify with. We might do that.
But would anyone EVER die for someone known to be wicked? Someone known to be at war with that person? Someone known to be a person who would kill you if they had the opportunity?
Jesus did. Paul now brings the full impact of Jesus’ sacrificial act into our understanding.
Once we are saved, we tend to go on about our business in our newfound relationship with Christ without really thinking about what took place to bring that relationship about. We know Christ died and was raised the third day. We know His body was the broken bread, and His blood the juice in the cup. We know He suffered. We accept and believe those things as if our lives depended upon them.
But Paul would remind us of the great honor in this grisly business of the forgiveness of sin which we might overlook if it was not brought before us. Some of us may even RATHER overlook what happened for our forgiveness, but the Lord will not allow it because He desires for us to see the full extent of the LOVE He demonstrated to us in His sacrifice for us.
This was not a theological act as much as it was a complete expression for God’s love for ALL people. Jesus didn’t just die for Christians, or church people, or good people as we may expect could have possibly happened. And Paul truly personalizes this great act of love by reminding us, perhaps pointing out to us for the first time – that Jesus suffered and died for us while we were dirty rotten scoundrels and wicked sinners who would rather kill Him than follow Him. It is THE greatest act of sacrifice in human history.