Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. ~ Luke 9:23,24 (NLT)
There are certain words that carry very negative connotations for me. Words that, when I hear them, make me shiver: head cheese, dirty diaper, country music, camping, and “Honey, let’s watch a Lifetime Channel movie together.”
On a more serious note, I think we all have certain words or phrases that carry negative connotations. Words like: cancer, HIV, bankruptcy, addiction, Ebola, and surrender.”
It is this last word, surrender, that I would like to focus on for the next few blogs.
When most of us think of surrender, we think of giving up and giving in. Images of white flags, yellow cowardice, and black spots in history pop into our mind. Many of us, as we look back through history, cringe at stories of surrender. Meanwhile, the stories of brave men and women refusing to surrender cause us to stand up and cheer.
The Alamo is a prime example. Lieutenant Colonel William Travis, Jim Bowie, Davey Crocket and roughly 240 others defended that old Texas mission in the face of 4000 Mexican regulars in that famous battle waged in 1836. Given the order to surrender by General Santa Anna, legend tells us that William Travis gathered his woefully outnumbered men and drew a line in the sand. Telling his men that he was staying to fight, Travis challenged anyone who wanted to join him to cross the line. All but a few crossed over.
For thirteen days, Santa Anna laid siege to the Alamo. Finally, on March 6th, 1836, the fateful assault came. The defenders fought valiantly and pushed back the initial attack, but the Mexicans were too many and the defenders too few. Before the morning was out, nearly all had been slain in brutal hand-to-hand combat.
After the battle, William Travis’ final dispatches were found: "The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken — I have answered their demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls — I shall never surrender or retreat." When I read those words, my patriotic heart is warmed, and I silently applaud the bravery of those fallen men.
Perhaps my favorite story comes from an event during World War II. In December of 1944, General Anthony C. McAuliffe commanded the 101st Airborne during the Battle of Bastogne. Germany was launching one last offensive (known as the Battle of the Bulge). During this battle, Bastogne was surrounded by the advancing Nazi army. The German Commander, General Heinrich von Luettwitz called for McAuliffe to surrender. Outraged, McAuliffe sent off his now-famous one word reply. “NUTS!”
Even with translators, the Germans had difficulty understanding this 1940s version of “Up yours!” Meanwhile, McAuliffe and his forces were able to hold off the German siege until the 4th Armored Division arrived to provide reinforcement.
We love these stories, don’t we? A hopelessly outnumbered Lt. Colonel boldly writing that he would never surrender nor retreat, and a battle hardened general scoffing at the notion of surrendering to an advancing enemy force. Our hearts shout with them all, “Stand up! Fight! Don’t give in. Don’t give up. Never surrender!”
Of course, when it comes to war and standing up for your country, your people, and your principles, it is important to stay the course and never give up or give in. I applaud those who do that on a daily basis.
Yet, if we let this idea seep into our relationship with Jesus, then we have a serious problem. Because when it comes to truly knowing and experiencing more of Christ, surrender is the key. We will never truly know and experience Jesus Christ without first surrendering totally, completely, and unreservedly to Him.
Since surrender is such a key component to the Christian life, we will spend the next few blogs focusing on it.