The Challenge of the Four Chaplains

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In a recent article, Phillip Morrison retold the story of four chaplains in the U.S. military who died in heroic fashion on the same day. George Fox, Alexander Goode, Clark Poling, and John Washington had just graduated from Army Chaplains School at Harvard and were headed to Europe for their first WWll assignments. Shortly after midnight on Feb. 3, 1943, their boat, the USA Dorchester, was torpedoed by a German sub off the coast of Newfoundland. As these chaplains helped the 904 troops on board seek to escape the sinking boat, they realized they were out of life vests. All four removed their vests and gave them to soldiers. The last recorded view of these four heroes was of them arm in arm singing hymns, as they went down with the ship.

Such unselfish sacrifice led Congress, by unanimous vote in 1988, to declare Feb. 3 to be “Four Chaplains Day.” This historical account made me ask myself who would I be willing to die for? Would I give my life for my wife? How would I respond if the doctor said that a medical treatment that would save my son or daughter from a fatal cancer would cost me my own life’?

It has been said that our service men sign a blank check as they enter military service — willing to pay any price to defend our country. The early Christians were willing to die defending Jesus and advancing His kingdom. That sacrifice is being repeated by thousands in our world today.

Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.” We must never forget that Jesus did just that, and that He calls us to willingly sacrifice all things for His Cause.

Don Loftis
Old Hickory, TN

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