A field of white marble crosses. Each marking the resting place of a fallen soldier. An old man appears he’s frantic, his haunted and hunted face draws us to look through his eyes. He’s searching. Finally, he falls at the foot of a cross and cries inconsolably. His wife, standing in silence nearby, reaches forward with a hand of comfort. Turning to her, he says through tears, “Tell me I led a good life, tell me I am worthy of their sacrifice!”
This scene is from the World War II movie “Saving Private Ryan”. It is about a section of soldiers who are on a rescue mission to extract Private Ryan from combat. Though their mission is a success, it comes at the heavy price of the life of nearly every soldier in the section. The story begins and ends with the elderly Ryan feeling unworthy of their sacrifice to rescue him.
In Philippians 1:27, Paul says, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ...”. Paul understood the plague of apathy and ingratitude that lulls believers to slumber. His appeal is like a flare fired into the night of our conscience. It illumines the dark assumptions that since our sin is paid for, hell has been averted and heaven now guaranteed. But we can’t let a lukewarm Christianity negotiate the standards of God’s holiness and extinguish the urgency of declaring the gospel.
Paul’s appeal requires humility. Not an introspective spirit that leaves a person in self-loathing and remorse. But a pride-killing spirit is needed. So we recall with thankfulness the tragic spiritual condition we were saved from. The person that considers the worth of the Gospel reflects with Christ-imitation a spirit of humility. A life that chooses to be hidden in Christ and boasts only of the cross bears the fruit of meekness.
The old man Ryan fell at the cross of the grave of the man who saved him. We need to fall at the foot of the cross of the Saviour who delivered us. But our cry will not be “Am I worthy?”, but rather “Jesus take my life, let it be worthy of your gospel!”