The battle had been fierce and merciless. Within five hours, more than 6,300 Union soldiers were dead or wounded on the battlefield of Fredericksburg. December 13, 1862 would be remembered for its atrocities.
At twilight, a light snow began to fall and temperatures hovered near zero. The atmosphere was frigidly gloomy. Many wounded soldiers were calling for help and water, but no one would risk their lives to come to their rescue. After all, the enemy soldiers would love to use any one of them for target practicing.
If for some reason we had been in the area, would we have come to the help of these poor soldiers? Or would we have been more concerned about the menacing soldiers still alive on both sides of the battlefield? What would we have done?
One union commander was haunted by the cries for help. There was no way he could sleep in such circumstances. Something had to be done, and the next day that same sergeant, Richard R. Kirkland from the Second Carolina Infantry, mustered enough courage to obtain permission from his commander to do something about his fallen comrades. He gathered as many canteens as he could carry, and to the amazement of his fellow soldiers, he crossed the stone wall and ran to the aid of these poor suffering soldiers.
Not surprisingly, the enemy soldiers started to shoot at him, but soon the Union commander realized what that courageous sergeant’s purpose was, and he immediately shouted out an order: “Don’t shoot that man! He’s too brave to die!”
Silence filled the field as the thousands of soldiers stood watching that Good Samaritan come to the aid to the fallen men. They were mesmerize by his courage and his compassion. Many began feeling ashamed that they had done nothing about this nightmarish scenario. In the end, that sergeant not only came to the aid of his comrades, he also helped the very same soldiers who, only the day before, had tried to kill him. Grace had come to the battlefield.
No one left the field unfazed that day. Something had happened that would remain in their minds forever.
There is no one more courageous than the One who willingly offered Himself as a sacrifice so that we would not have to beg for help. He died on a cross so that eternity could be ours. Guilt does not need to haunt us any longer. Shame has evaporated as His forgiveness has paved our way!
“Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Rom 5:16-17, NIV2)
So many consider God’s grace a common thing. It is not. It came with a very high price: the death of God’s only Son. It is a gift beyond worldly standards. It is an act of courage beyond anyone’s imagination. It is love unlike any we’ve ever seen. Nothing compares to this gift of grace, a gift that will last for eternity.
May these graceful actions of Sergeant Richard R. Kirkland be a reminder to us today of how much more grace our Father has bestowed to all of us, and let’s embrace His love with all we have. Let’s enjoy the life He is offering us. It’s out of this world!
(To access the entire “Radical Grace From the Book of Romans” devotional series, please click here.)