Have any of you watched the movie, Saving Private Ryan? It is Steven Spielberg’s haunting window on the days surrounding the Allied invasion at Omaha Beach. When the film was first released, war veterans broke down in theaters, many unable to process the memories invoked by the soldier’s-eye view of the horrors of battle.
When the scene finally switches from the bloody beaches to a peaceful America, we see a mother glancing up from her sink as a U.S. army car creeps up the dusty driveway and stops before her farmhouse. Ever since her four sons had enlisted, in hopes of halting Hitler’s bloody advance, she has been praying this moment would never come. One of her boys is gone, she realizes in horror. Which one could it be? But the news is worse than she could have imagined.
That day she is handed not one, but three telegrams. Three of her four boys are dead. And the fourth is missing.
Sinking to her knees on the porch, she watches the dishtowel slip from her trembling hands.
Stirred by the grief-stricken woman’s plight, the U.S. Army chief of staff, General George C. Marshall, resorts to unusual measures. He orders Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks), a hero of the Omaha Beach battle, to lead eight men across the picturesque French countryside to find the fourth son, paratrooper Private James Ryan. His mission: Bring Ryan home alive. Together they strike out, heading in the general direction of Cherbourg. Though their mission is eventually accomplished, the cost is high. Most of the eight lose their lives, and in an act of the ultimate sacrifice, Captain Miller gives his own life to save Private Ryan.
The film concludes in modern-day France as an aging war veteran shuffles up to a grave in the sea of white crosses memorializing those who died liberating the country. His family stands back, giving space to his memories. Five decades have passed since he was rescued and returned home. Five decades since the men gave their lives that he might live. Overcome by gratitude, Private James Ryan kneels before the grave of Captain John Miller and breaks down in tears, like his mother on that porch so many years before.
Turning to his wife at last, he cries, “Tell me…tell me that I’ve lived a good life.” She walks forward and wraps her arms around him as they weep together.
What was private Ryan really asking? I don’t think he was asking, “was I worthy when those men made the ultimate sacrifice to save my life? I think he was asking, since the time those men made their great sacrifice to save my life, have I lived in such a way that I have shown my appreciation for what they did? If they can some how see how I have lived my life, are they glad, or do they regret the sacrifice of their lives and consider it a waste?
Ephesians 4:1-6 says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
I have seen the movie, Saving Private Ryan. That scene moved me to tears. In the movie, Ryan asks his wife, “Did I live a good life?” I think the question really tells us that he had been reflecting and asking himself the same question.
In Ephesians, Paul admonishes us to live a life that is worthy of our calling. I think that to obey that admonition, we also have to do some reflecting.
First, we need to reflect on our calling as a Christian. Consider the first and second chapters of Ephesians and what it says about our calling and what God has done for us.
Verse 3 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Verse 4 – For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
Verse 5 – hepredestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ,
Verse 7 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,
Verses 11& 12 – In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
Verse 13 – And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
Verse 14 – who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Verse 18 – I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
Verse 5 – made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Verse 6 – And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
Verse 10 – For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Verse 13 – But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
Verse 19 – Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,
Verse 21- In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
Verse 22 – And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
That should blow us away! We have an amazing calling. God sacrificed the ultimate sacrifice and then blessed us with the ultimate blessings. We have the highest calling there is.
Second, we need to reflect on our lives. In light of our high calling, are we living them in a worthy way? Perhaps like private Ryan, we need to get some input from others who know us well.