Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
If you’ve read the book or seen the movie Lone Survivor, you know the story of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who died in what is often called the Battle of Murphy’s Ridge. Murphy’s four-man SEAL team was surrounded by a much larger force of Taliban guerillas in the mountains of Afghanistan. One of the SEALs, Danny Dietz, had already been killed, and the three surviving members of the team had all been wounded by enemy gunfire.
The treacherous, rocky terrain prevented the SEALs from making radio contact with their base, so 29-year-old Michael Murphy, affectionately called “Mikey” by his men, moved out into the open to call in a rescue mission for his two teammates. Murphy knew full well that to do so was to expose himself to a furious storm of enemy fire; indeed, he was shot through the chest as he gave his position to headquarters, the impact of the bullets jolting the satellite phone out of his hand. Michael Murphy calmly retrieved the phone, thanked the person he had been speaking to, then picked up his rifle and returned fire at the advancing Taliban forces. Moments later, Michael Murphy was dead. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the first member of the Navy to receive that award since the Vietnam War.
Despite the woeful misrepresentation of American history that takes place in far too many of our schools today, most Americans can name at least a few of the major military actions that turned the course of history: Washington crossing the Delaware, The Battle of Gettysburg, D-Day, Desert Storm, and the like. But most of us never hear about the innumerable small-unit actions that take place during any engagement, where valiant men like Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who loved their friends more than life itself, gave the last full measure of their devotion so that others might live.
I hope you’ll pause to remember such men this Memorial Day . . . perhaps you’ll take the time to read about their lives and deaths and give prayerful thanks that God sees fit to raise up such remarkable, selfless men and women to protect our freedom.
And as you ponder this “no greater love,” I hope you’ll consider the actions of one other man, who was only a few years older than Michael Murphy, a man who willingly faced a fury infinitely greater than anything the Taliban could ever unleash. Jesus Christ endured the wrath of God, crying out in unimaginable anguish, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” He didn’t have to do that . . . He never had to leave the comfort and glory of His throne room in heaven, much less allow Himself to be nailed to a cross . . . but He did. And He did it because He loves you that much! He died so that you and I might have life everlasting in His name.
We shake our heads in awe and admiration at the heroism of men like Michael Murphy, and well we should. But think of this: Murphy was loved and respected by his men, just as he loved and respected them. When Jesus Christ died for us, we were His enemies! (Romans 5:10). We had no love or respect for Jesus Christ, for “the sinful mind is hostile to God” (Romans 8:7). And yet the perfect, sinless Lamb of God laid down His life for wretched sinners like you and me.
This Memorial Day, as you recall the gallant acts of brave American heroes, I hope you’ll take a few moments to consider this too:
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!