Saving Private Ryan . . . And Me

One of my favorite movies is “Saving Private Ryan” from 1998. In that movie an Army Private named Ryan has four brothers who are killed in combat. Ryan is the last surviving son so the Army decides to send him home. Ryan is somewhere in France in combat himself and is hard to locate so a squad of 7 men led by a Captain is sent to find Private Ryan.

In the course of events that follow, Ryan is found and sent home while several of the squad are killed in combat, including the Captain. In the last scene, time has advanced. Ryan is now an old man visiting the battle sites in France and is seen standing alone over the grave of the Captain who died in the search for Ryan. Ryan is in deep thought wondering if he was worth the lives of so many good men.

His wife approaches Ryan, he turns to her and asks, “Have I been a good person?”. She acts surprised that he would ask such a question and begins to protest but he repeats the question. “Have I been a good person?”

Finally she assures him he has been a good man. With that Ryan acts a little relieved. Then he turns, stands at attention and salutes the grave of the Captain.

Thinking on this movie brought to mind the fact that one day there will be a time in everyone’s life when they will ask themselves, “Have I been a good person?”.

The older I get the more I think about it. Have I really been a good person? You might wonder, “Why do you ask?” and my answer is, at one time in a spiritual sense, I was just as lost as Private Ryan. But God sent His Son, Jesus, looking for me. Many times He found me but I refused to go with Him. Then one day when everything else had failed to satisfy me, I turned to Him and He accepted me just as I was, a desperately lost sinner.

And now in the “Golden Years” I, like Private Ryan, stand before an empty cross on which Jesus Christ died to show me the way “home”. In front of the cross is a grave, but it is also empty. I ask God the question, “Have I been a good person? Have I been good enough to deserve to come “home” to heaven?” And the answer I will receive from God is the same answer every person will receive. “No, you have not been a good person and no, you don’t deserve heaven. But Jesus, My Son, has been perfectly good and He is willing to impute, or transfer, His goodness over onto you . . . . if you will accept it. That’s the only way home to heaven.”

How could anyone turn that down? I’m not good enough to go to Heaven on my own efforts and never could be. But Jesus is good and will give me His goodness if I will take it! Which I will, and do by believing and saying “Jesus, take my sins, my wickedness and make me a good person. Amen!”.

And now, like Private Ryan, I stand before the empty tomb and salute my Lord and Savior, not with a hand salute but with my heart, and I say, “Jesus, I love you. Thank You for saving me”.

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