Wednesday, June 12, 2019


“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 I love baseball. Some say it’s slow, but it’s so intriguing and fun. Like any sport, it has its “game within the game.” In these days of home runs and power pitching, the strategy of “small ball” isn’t practiced as much as in the “old days.” One such strategy is called “sacrificing.” As a batter, it means I give up my opportunity to get on base to move another player to second, third, or home plate. Via a bunt or fly ball, I create time for the base runner to advance, even though I give up my own chance to run the bases. Sure, a “sacrifice” in baseball keeps the batter off the bases, but is little like the sacrifices of real life. Last week, we celebrated Memorial Day. It’s a time to celebrate and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice that our country might be free. Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. The holiday, which is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions that had been celebrated on different days, merged, and Memorial Day extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. We have so much to be thankful for- so much to celebrate for every man or woman who gave the ultimate sacrifice that our nation might be free. We also honor every family who has endured their loved one’s loss. One of my favorite movies with one of my favorite actors, is Clint Eastwood in “Outlaw Josie Wales.” It’s a movie about a man struggling to find peace in the Civil War ravaged Ozarks. Wales comments, in one scene, that “war and fighting are easy for men like us- it’s the peace that’s our biggest challenge.” Few of us will ever fight in a war. Truth is, that was the wish of our forefathers- that subsequent generations would live in freedom. So, the way we sacrifice may seem insignificant. But the way we validate and honor those who have died for our country is by making the peace well. I think ‘ole Clint was right- show us where we’re to fight and we’ll go punch it out with the best of ‘em. But show us where we’re to love and, well, we’re a little lost. The sacrifice of war is clear: we lay down our lives to vanquish the enemy. The sacrifice of peace is equally clear: we lay down our lives to lift up others. Either way, we choose to love and give and serve. We choose to die to ourselves and serve those around us. We choose to “regard others as more important than ourselves” (Phil. 2:3). In peacetime, that may not earn us a medal, but making the sacrifice means we’re willing to sacrifice ourselves. Why? Because that’s exactly what Jesus did for us. And, He promises to give us the strength we need to do the same. It is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, "What will you give me if I release you?" "The half of my wealth," was his reply. "And if I release your children?" "Everything I possess." "And if I release your wife?" "Your Majesty, I will give myself." Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, "Wasn't Cyrus a handsome man!" With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, "I didn't notice. I could only keep my eyes on you- -the one who was willing to give himself for me." Thank you God for all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in dying for this country. May we all choose to “lay down the bunt” and sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of others. Whether in war or peace, may we choose to regard others as more important and selflessly serve our neighbors. Not only will God bless our neighbor… …but He will bless us in our sacrifice as well. By Eric Joseph Staples ©