"Never leave a soldier behind."
Pretty powerful stuff. The time-tested promise of our military to its men and women. And the stated reason our government swapped some dangerous detainees for one imprisoned - and controversial - sergeant.
But in all the emotional debate about this particular soldier, I haven't heard anyone say that "never left behind" is anything but the right thing.
Too bad life isn't like the military sometimes.
Because we've got plenty of people around us who feel like we do leave people behind.
The widow who feels like everybody withdrew once her husband died. The senior citizen, feeling like she might as well die because everyone treats her like she already has.
Kids abandoned to a foster care system that often leaves them abused and angry. And 40 million kids in this country alone, waiting for someone who will give them a family.
How many times has the immigrant, or the newcomer in the neighborhood felt abandoned? I've been the guy, in another culture, surrounded by a language and customs I didn't understand. And it was just plain lonely!
The crowd blows right by those they consider "uncool," leaving them feeling like a discarded paper plate.
It's people who can't do anything for us. Whose association might make us look bad. Who've been hurt so bad that they protect themselves with a "leave me alone" vibe. Which is really the last thing they want.
So many feeling "left behind" by a world of people too self-absorbed to go after them. The painfully shy person. The troubled - and troublesome - kid.
In virtually every workplace...every school...every neighborhood...every roomful of people - there's someone who feels invisible. Small. Left out. Left behind.
It's been bothering me.
I want eyes to see those people no one sees. To stop for those people no one's got time for. To gravitate to the person on the edge, in the corner. To make the "little guy" feel big for once.
To show inconvenient love.
That's what my Hero did. In His world, no one touched the repulsive lepers. He did.
No one treated children like they were more important than the big shots. He did. No one treated women with dignity and respect. He did. No respectable person hung out with the reviled "sinners." He did.
That's my Jesus.
Who came after me when I was a deserter. A cosmic deserter. I'd turned my back on the very God who gave me my life. Walking away from the One who loved me like no one else. Selling out to my dark side. In essence, waving at God with one hand, shaking a fist in His face with the other.
I left Him behind. He refused to leave me behind. "Christ died...the righteous (that's Him) for the unrighteous (that's me), that He might bring us safely home to God" (I Peter 3:18). That's how much He didn't want to lose me.
I want to be like Him. And leave no one behind.