Bible commentator William Barclay wrote of an old Roman coin which bore the picture of an ox facing an altar and a plow. The inscription read, “Ready for either.”1
This is the spirit in which our American military members enlist for service. They are ready—ready to give their lives for others’ freedom or ready to make the daily sacrifices of continuing service.
Sometimes we most honor those soldiers who gave their lives in the pinnacle moment of sacrifice. And, indeed, they are worthy of more thanks than we give.
But in our gratitude, we should not forget the men and women who didn’t die on the battlefield, but pressed forward day after day, night after night, often watching their dearest friends give their lives, always ready themselves to do the same. This is as needed a sacrifice as the other, and freedom wouldn’t be possible without it. It just takes place over a longer span of time.
I’m thankful for all of our military and am glad we can honor them on Veterans Day, as we will this Sunday at Lancaster Baptist Church.
I have recently been studying the lives of Christian martyrs and leaders from the past. I’m reminded that while John Huss (1369–1415) was burned at the stake for preaching that salvation is by grace alone and not by works, John Wycliffe (1320s—December 1384), from whom Huss heard these Bible truths, died a natural death after spending years in unremitting labor to translate the Bible and defend Bible doctrines in the Dark Ages. Both Huss and Wycliffe gave their lives as a sacrifice. Although Huss’ sacrifice is remembered in his final, supreme moment as a martyr, Wycliffe’s sacrifice was no less significant or self-denying.
As Christians in America today, we—in large part thanks to the willing sacrifices of our military—don’t currently face martyrdom for the faith. But may we be no less ready to offer our lives a daily sacrifice, putting our hand to the plow and willingly serving God.
And may we always remain ready for either.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.—Romans 12:1
1 William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, volume 2 (The William Barclay Estate, 1975, 2001), 269.