Miracle on the River Kwai


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Bible Reading: John 15:9-13

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13, NIV

THE SOLDIER BEGAN screaming and waving his arms at the grimy group of prisoners.

A group of POWs (Prisoners of War) were working on the infamous Burma Railway during World War II when one of the Japanese guards shouted that one of the shovels was missing. The soldier demanded to know which prisoner had stolen or hidden the shovel.

Ernest Gordon, author of Miracle on the River Kwai, tells the true story:

He began to rant and rave, working himself up into a paranoid fury and ordered whoever was guilty to step forward. No one moved. “All die! All die!” he shrieked, cocking and aiming his rifle at the prisoners. At that moment one man stepped forward, and the guard clubbed him to death with his rifle while he stood silently to attention. When they returned to camp, the tools were counted again, and no shovel was missing.

That anonymous soldier sacrificed his life so that his companions could live. Many soldiers-and others-have done the same, of course. It’s often called “the supreme sacrifice.” Just about anyone can recognize that such an act is noble and good. Why? Because there is nothing more precious to give away than one’s own life. Jesus said as much (and foreshadowed his own death) when he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, NIV).

That’s why we honor Christian martyrs, from Stephen (Acts 7) to modern mission­aries who are killed for their efforts to preach Christ in dangerous places. That’s why we honor soldiers who have given their lives in defense of their countries. That’s even why we revere those, like Mother Teresa and Henri Nouwen, who choose to spend their lives in the service of the poor and the mentally handicapped.

Life is among God’s most precious gifts, and respecting and honoring human life includes honoring those who have, by necessity or by choice, given their lives away, either through death (like that anonymous soldier in Burma) or in life (like Mother Teresa and Henri Nouwen).

REFLECT: Do you think sacrificing one’s life for someone else is good or bad, noble or degrading? Why? Do you know someone who has sacrificed his or her life to save or care for someone else? How can you honor that person?

PRAY: “Jesus, thank you for giving your life for me. And thank you for the martyrs and soldiers who have sacrificed their lives so I can live as I do. Help me to appreciate their sacrifice and honor them by______________.”


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