This question was asked at the end of the Motion Picture, “Saving Private Ryan,” which was released a few years ago, depicting war in a graphic and realistic way. Private Ryan asked this question of his wife in a very emotional way during a visit to a cemetery of World War II soldiers — while the movie camera focused on thousands upon thousands of casualties of war, identified by white crosses.
Private Ryan’s mother used to have three sons. The War Department had already informed the family that two of her sons had been killed in war. When the fate of her third son — Private Ryan — had become uncertain, the War Department sent out a group of soldiers to locate Private Ryan and to bring him home safely. It was felt that losing two sons in war was a sufficient sacrifice for any family. The soldiers who were sent out to locate Private Ryan were all killed in the process of saving him. They sacrificed their lives to save him. This was the reason why he asked his wife whether he had been a good man. Was he really “worthy” enough for the ultimate sacrifice these men had made for him by paying with their lives so that he could live?
The question for us today is this: Have we been a good man or woman in our lives? As in the case of Private Ryan, someone was willing to die for us so that we could live. That Person was a Righteous Man Who was willing to die for our past sins so that we would not have to suffer eternal death. This Righteous Man was more than just an ordinary person; He was our beloved Savior, the God of the Old Testament Who gave up His Divinity to become a Man, so that He could die for us.
When Christ gave His life for us, we were NOT good people. None of us were. In fact, we were His enemies, deceived by the god of this world–Satan the devil–following the carnal lusts of the flesh. We were most certainly not “worthy” to receive the opportunity for eternal life through the Sacrifice of Christ.
But we CAN become good people. It is interesting what Christ said about being a good man in Matthew 12:35: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things.” On another occasion He said: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). He recognized that it was God the Father, living in Him, Who made Him good. This is true of us also. David said, in Psalm 119:172: “For all your commandments are righteousness.” We too can be righteous if God’s Spirit in us is leading us and we are obedient to His commandments.
Very soon now we will be keeping the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. This is a special time for us, both to examine ourselves and to work on putting sin out of our lives. While we meditate on these things, let us never forget the tremendous sacrifice Christ made for us, willingly giving up His life as a God being, and subsequently His physical life, to make available to us eternal life. As we reflect on these things set before us, let us ask ourselves the same question which Private Ryan asked: “Have I been a good man?”