“Tell me I have led a good life. Tell me I am a good man.” Those were the poignant, desperate words from an aging Private Ryan to his wife uttered at the graveside of the man sent to save him following the Allies' invasion of Europe. The movie, Saving Private Ryan, is a fictional tale depicting the early days of the war and has been described as realistic and graphic. Private Ryan's words encapsulate equally realistic and raw emotions. Essentially, he is asking, “Was I worth the sacrifice?”

In the film, Saving Private Ryan, In the film, Saving Private Ryan, an aging Private Ryan contemplates freedom and sacrifice (Photo: Courtesy of Paramount/Dreamworks Pictures)

On the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Europe, I called my oldest daughter, then only a young child, to the television. Though she could not completely comprehend, I wanted her to understand that this event was an important part of our history. I explained in simple terms what it meant to the Canadian veterans and to the people of Holland. She witnessed expressions of joy and gratitude juxtaposed with the sombre, aged faces of men who had lived full lives streaked with tears as they remembered.

Fifty years had passed but they had not forgotten. Memories of the loss and struggle were so vivid that, in a sense, they were reliving them in that moment. They could remember their friends who had died in battle beside them and therefore had not grown old. Fifty years had passed but the veterans were immersed in their moment of loss.

For those of us who have not seen war, we choose to remember those who have sacrificed for us. Remembering provides context as to how our lives fit within the bigger picture. It explains my freedoms today. My life is set within the context of the death and suffering of those I do not know. I believe this is why God requires us to remember.

In the Bible, God provided Moses with explicit instructions detailing how the ancient Israelites were to observe the Passover as they commemorated their release from bondage (see Exodus 13:1-16). This annual observance would remind them of the redemption of firstborn sons and the sacrifice of firstborn animals to the Lord. God did not want them to take their deliverance from the land of Egypt for granted.

The Passover was a foreshadowing of who was to come. The firstborn or “the only begotten Son” of God was to be the sacrifice for our redemption. Revelation 13:8 calls Jesus “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.”

It was at Passover when Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples, showing them how to remember him. “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you' ” (Luke 22:19-20).

Just as God told the Israelites to remember their deliverance from Egypt, he is telling us to remember our deliverance from sin and death through the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the earth. Freedom—whether for nations or souls—comes at a price. As we experience each day, may we view our lives within the broader context of God's plans and remember the cost of redemption.

Jeremy Mills attends Napanee Community Church in Ontario.

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