Last week when Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, his actions in Afghanistan demonstrated something behind humanity that goes deeper than just bravery- self-sacrificial love.
When Meyer’s column, a mix of American soldiers and Afghan trainees, were ambushed and pinned down by gunfire. Meyer ignored orders and all logic to aid his fellow soldiers. What he did defies sanity, and yet he saved several lives that day.
As President Barack Obama presented the award to Meyer he commented on the bravery it took to face certain death. “Dakota later confessed,” Obama said, “I didn’t think I was going to die. I knew I was.”
Meyer humbly acknowledges that his story is common in the war. “My story is one of millions, and the others aren’t often told,” he confessed to the New York Times.
Stories of soldiers jumping on grenades to save their friends are common in times of war. Sebastian Junger examines the life and psyche of the frontline soldier in his book War.
In an Amazon interview with author Evan Thomas, Junger explains the idea of self-sacrifice.
“The classic story of a man throwing himself on a hand grenade–certain death, but an action that will almost certainly save everyone else–is neither a Hollywood cliché nor something that only happened in wars gone by. It is something that happens with regularity, and I don’t think it can be explained by ‘army training’ or any kind of suicidal impulse. I think that kind of courage goes to the heart of what it means to be human and to affiliate with others in a kind of transcendent way.”
Junger says that self-sacrifice gets at the “heart of what it means to be human.” What he is getting at is that a sacrificial love is something deep behind our humanity. It is something we inherently have.
But where does self-sacrificial love come from?
It can’t be explained by atheistic evolution. The law of the survival of the fittest commands that an organism will do whatever it can to produce offspring. Self-sacrifice so others can live doesn’t account this. In fact, the law defeats itself because the strongest- the soldier with the greatest surge of adrenaline, or presence of mind- would be the one to die.
Atheistic evolution explains love as a way to get sex so that offspring can be produced. Love can also be used for protection as we learn to love our families or societies. But this kind of love- the love that defies the laws of nature to give oneself up for fellow men, is inexplicable without God.
Perhaps this is what is meant by “made in the image of God”- the ability to love beyond the point of logic.
And we find this love that is even more powerful than death when we see Jesus- giving himself up on the cross.