I had the honor of meeting a Medal of Honor recipient years ago. I was on a flight to Ft. Bragg, NC, preparing to deploy to Iraq. Across the aisle, an old man in military regalia sat hunched over, white ball cap proclaiming him a veteran of the Korean War. I was used to seeing old vets on flights when I traveled and enjoyed sparking up conversations. However, a fellow service member had already begun chatting up the old man.
Upon exiting the plane, I got caught in the taxiway waiting for the line to clear. The other soldier sitting next to the old man nudged me and motioned in his direction.
“See that guy? He’s a Medal of Honor recipient. Living legend, man.”
My jaw dropped and once the line moved, I scurried to meet the old man. Upon introducing myself, I snapped to attention and delivered a proper salute.
What most civilians don’t know is that all service members salute Medal of Honor recipients. It doesn’t matter if you’re the General of the freaking U.S. Army. That award outranks everyone and everything. We salute not to honor the man, but the accomplishment — the unbridled sacrifice and bravery in love for fellow man.
As I began my reflection for Good Friday this morning, that memory came to mind. Good Friday is a day when Christians around the globe take time to solemnly reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In love, he willingly laid down his life for others to purchase freedom for humanity.
It’s a strange conundrum for those outside of the Christian faith and even those inside it. How on earth can the death of a man bring about freedom or good? But then I remember the Medal of Honor.
The “good” in Good Friday is what Christ accomplished on a cross. He pays the penalty for shortcomings, failures, and sin. Christ imputes his “goodness” to those who would call him Lord. It would be like that old man taking off his medal, hanging it around my neck, and saying that his accomplishments now belong to me. That no matter how bad I botch things, the accomplishment still stands.
Some days I lose my way. I hurt my fellow man and wound those I love most. Other times, I fall off the wagon. It’s so easy for me — and I suspect others of you reading this — to beat ourselves up. But if we are to believe the message of Good Friday, then it is simple:
No matter how bad we screw up, there’s a medal around our neck reminding us how much we were worth saving.
Tetelestai (“It Is Finished”)