—King Henry V, Henry V by William Shakespeare
“This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
“So the boy…the boy must die?” asked Snape quite calmly.—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
“And Voldemort himself must do it, Severus. That is essential.”
Another long silence. Then Snape said, “I thought…all these years…that we were protecting him for her. For Lily.”
“We have protected him because it has been essential to teach him, to raise him, to let him try his strength,” said Dumbledore, his eyes still tight shut. “Meanwhile, the connection between them grows ever stronger, a parasitic growth: Sometimes I have thought he suspects it himself. If I know him, he will have arranged matters so that when he does set out to meet his death, it will truly mean the end of Voldemort.”
Dumbledore opened his eyes. Snape looked horrified.
“You have kept him alive so that he can die at the right moment?”
“Don’t be shocked, Severus. How many men and women have you watched die?”
“Lately, only those whom I could not save,” said Snape. He stood up. “You have used me.”
“I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter’s son safe. Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter!”
“Valar Morghulis” (“All men must die”)—Game of Thrones
“Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”—William Wallace, Braveheart
Moments after the temptation and the power of The Ring consumed his heart, Boromir redeemed himself by protecting Merry and Pippin from the onslaught of Uruk-Hai. One arrow after another pierced his torso as he struggled to fight off his enemy. He dies saving the Hobbits and urging the Fellowship to continue in their sacrificial journey to save Middle Earth.
Held up on a bridge, leaning against a motorcycle, on the outskirts of Ramelle, Captain John H. Miller makes his final stand after losing six out of eight Rangers from his company in order to save one man: Private First-Class James Francis Ryan.
I chose six meaningful scenes from stage and screen in order to illustrate the natural, visceral, human response to self-sacrifice. Sacrificial themes instill in us a sense of humility, compassion, and honor? We find ourselves responding to speeches by William Wallace and Henry V. We feel compelled to stand beside Boromir, Captain John H. Miller, and Arya Stark when they rush into battle without a semblance of cowardice. Tears flow down our cheeks when Harry Potter gives his life so his friends have a chance to live.
Truth be told, the entirety of human civilization is the result of self-sacrifice. The spread of Christianity and the success of the American Experient both rest on the shoulders of those who sacrificed their lives in order to instigate and propagate that in which they wholly believed to be true and right. If this wasn’t true, sayings like “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” or “Freedom doesn’t come without a price” wouldn’t be regularly displayed on the back of pickup trucks next to their “JUST SAY NO TO VACCINES” bumper stickers.
In the infamous chapter on biblical heroes of great faith and action, Hebrews 11, we read about a son of a harlot named Jephthah. Since the author of Hebrews said he didn’t have time to go into detail about Jephthah, we have to go back and find out what he did. I’m convinced that the author of Hebrews mentioned Jephthah because of the sacrifice not only made by Jephthah, but the sacrifice made by his daughter. While fighting against the Ammonites, Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, promising that if he was victorious over the Ammonites, he would sacrifice the first thing to come out of his house to meet him when he returned. Seems like a very risky oath to make. Jephthah defeats the Ammonites and returns home. When he arrives, who comes out of his house? An old goat or a wooly sheep? Maybe a chicken? Nope! Shockingly, his daughter walks out his front door. Weird! So, now he has to sacrifice his daughter, because he keeps the promises he makes to God. Jephthah is devastated, but his daughter consoles him. She agrees to make this sacrifice in order for her father to maintain his integrity (Judges 11). To me, she deserves mention in Hebrews 11 more than Jephthah, but I digress. The essence of Jephthah’s heroism is self-sacrifice.
I would boldly say, that the essence of our faith in Jesus Christ is self-sacrifice. What does it mean to say that I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins? What does it mean to confess one’s sins and pledge to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior? After Peter finally declared that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God, Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter rebuked Jesus and was like “No Way!” Jesus responds to Peter by saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:16–24).
Sounds like self-sacrifice to me.
A friend of mine just posted a quote on Instagram by Reverend Ben Cremer that read, “If we Christians somehow arrive at the conclusion that giving up some personal liberties for the sake of other people’s safety somehow makes us less free, then we have deeply misunderstood the cross.” Really makes you think doesn’t it?
Getting vaccinated—if you can—or wearing a mask to prevent respiratory droplets from infecting others around you is a small sacrifice to pay in order to save lives, isn’t it? How can we honor and remember the lives of those who sacrificed far more for the betterment of our society and the freedoms we enjoy, while at the same time refuse to make this simple and minute change to our lifestyle?
How can we, without a hint of irony, embrace the assurance of our salvation that was paid for by the Son of the living God while at the same time refuse to save the lives of others by wearing a mask or injecting a safe and effective vaccine in our arms?
The foundation of our country and our faith is self-sacrifice. We have honored our heroes from the cradle of civilization for the sacrifices they’ve made in order to save lives and provide us with freedom, liberty, happiness, and redemption. Why wouldn’t we want to be in good company with the heroes rather than hiding behind our pithy slogans written on bumper stickers?