Every Forth of July, I spend the day half in solemn thoughts, and half in thankful ones. The history of my country is an amazing one, though it is far from perfect. There are those heroes, however, that I remember on this day. Men like Nathan Hale.
Nathan is remembered for his last words “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Whether these are his real last words, or not, is open for debate. All of the scholars affiliated with Nathan Hale’s life and role in America’s War for Independence, I have found, agree that this summarizes his heart for the not-yet-formed nation. Nathan Hale was hung as a traitor and a spy when he was just twenty-one years old. That sobers me down to my bones. Here was a young man at the very beginning of adulthood by today’s standards, willing to give his life for an idea. America wasn’t even a nation yet, it was a loose conglomeration of ideas and people both educated and uneducated who decided that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was worth fighting and dying for.
Nathan Hale did not get to see the outcome of the war; he never saw America rise to be a world power or watch as freedom, intelligence and curiosity put a man on the moon. He only glimpsed the possibility of what might be, if the citizens in the New World were unfettered by a tyrannical set of taxes and rules imposed upon them by a ruling class of society out of touch with the average person. For that possibility he was willing to die. Nathan did not undertake the role of spy without due consideration. He was well aware of what the penalty was for spies if they were caught.
I met the mother of a young gentleman named Jessie who also weighed the price of freedom for America, and decided it was worth paying for it with his life. He was a Captain in the Marines. His sister was serving in the Army. At thirty years old, Jessie was killed by a roadside IED. A strong Christian, he had agreed to switch out patrols with one of his officers, and so he was blown to bits instead of the man under his command.
Jessie, not being married and having no children, had privately confided to his Mom he’d rather be the one killed then a guy under his command with a wife and kids. She shared that he said this to her before deploying for the last time. “I know I’ll go to Jesus and there’s nothing better than that. Some of these guys, I just don’t know where they’d end up. I’d much rather it be me.” And, it was.
The gentleman he switched out with wasn’t a Christian, and had a wife and young children. His Mom, with tears standing in her eyes told me that her son said that the reason he was willing to continue to serve where he was sent was two-fold: to glorify Jesus Christ when and where he could, and to keep the ‘war on terror from coming to our front door’.
Nathan and Jessie both exemplify in my eyes , selfless love and courage,. Both of these men are very much like the final hero I will mention today.
Before time started, He took a long look at what would be needed for His family to be with Him, and free. He saw my rebellion, He saw what would be needed to ransom me, a person made in His image but who had no real affection for Him. To set me right with Yahweh after my warmongering there would have to be a substitution. A perfect life had to be lived as a man here on earth, and offered up in exchange for my corrupt one. But more than that, my rebellion against an infinite God both just and loving, created an infinite punishment that I needed to pay.
Only Someone infinite can pay an infinite debt. Someone finite would be consumed by such a thing. So not only did He have to live a perfect life, He had to die an infinite death to satisfy my infinite debt. What kind of Man does that? Dies such a death for a rebel who has no love or affection for Him? And not only dies, but raises again because in the coming back from the dead, He forever crushed its’ power. Death is no longer “the end” for my story. He took my debt, paid it in full, and secured an everlasting future for me in His presence. Ransomed in full. Rescued in a way that I can never be lost. Freed from my sin-debt, free to have life to the fullest, free to live with Him and be the most amazing me I can be.
Who did this?
Jesus of Nazareth, that is who did this, the Son of God, and Son of Man.
It cost Him everything to free me from my sin, my just sentence, and set me in life everlasting.
It will take me my whole life, here and in eternity to tell Him how thankful I am, that He used HIS freedom to purchase mine for me.
What are you guys thinking on this Forth of July? Who are YOUR freedom heroes? Let me know, in the comments.