By Jordan Jachim
“Where, then, does this rule which prevailed in the sinking Titanic come from? It comes from God, through the faith of Jesus of Nazareth. “It is the ideal of self- sacrifice. It is the rule that ‘the strong ought to bear the infirmities of those that are weak.’ It is the divine revelation which is summed up in the words: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’”—Dr. Henry Van Dyke
On February 26, 1852, a British troopship named H. M. S. Birkenhead struck a reef, and all knew she was doomed to sink. The water was filled with sharks and the lifeboats were too few. But the brave British soldiers filled the lifeboats with the women and children, as they themselves stood on deck, ready to die. One of the few survivors of the soldiers, Corporal W. Smith, 12th Foot, who swam through the shark-infested sea to land, wrote:
“Yes, that all-conquering discipline—for of all the women and children not one is lost. Because of that, and because we obeyed—I and the rest of us are satisfied.”
Fifty years later, an ocean liner named Titanic was taking her maiden voyage across the North Atlantic. She struck an iceberg, and her lifeboats were inadequate for the number of passengers aboard. Again the men stood on deck as women and children filled the lifeboats. Benjamin Guggenheim, a businessman who had $95,000,000 to his name, said to a member of the crew as the ship sank, “I am willing to remain and play the man’s game, if there are not enough boats for more than the women and children. ... No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward.” And Ben Guggenheim was no blusterer. He went down with the ship. His words speak for many of the men on board the Titanic.
In 1942, a secret commando force of British troops under Major Hugh Seagrim was operating in Burma against the Japanese. The locals aided him in sabotage on the Japanese. The Japanese arrested and tortured the locals, hoping they would betray Seagrim. Not one of them did, but Major Seagrim and eight of his men surrendered to spare the people from further torture. Seagrim said that he should be executed and his men spared, because they had only been following his orders. The eight men demanded to die with their Major, and all nine were executed.
(picture from King & Country Toy Soldiers)
I was not a witness to these deeds of heroism, but I did see men act in the spirit of chivalry as set forth by the men of the Birkenhead and Titanic. At a conference we attended last December, one of the sessions was jam-packed and more people kept coming. All the seats were filled, so entire families—men, women, and children—were standing to hear the upcoming important lecture. Quietly, some men arose and stood or sat by the wall, leaving the seats for a few women, but there were not enough for all. An announcement came from the podium that some women were standing, and, as though an unseen signal had been relayed through the auditorium, most of the men— old men, young men, and men with seated families—got out of their seats without a murmur or a complaint.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, KJV) This is how Christ loved the Church. He bled and died for Her.
“Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, KJV)
In loving sacrificially, we have the example first of Christ, but also of the soldiers aboard the Birkenhead, the gentlemen on the Titanic, Major Seagrim and his commandos, the men at the conference, and “so great a cloud of witnesses”. May we love and sacrifice as they loved and sacrificed.