It was on this day in 1943, while en route to Greenland, the troop ship SS Dorchester was sunk by a German U-boat, taking the lives of 600 men who were aboard. Among the lost were four chaplains, dubbed the “Four Immortals”—a Catholic Priest, a Methodist minister, a Dutch Reformed minister and a Jewish Rabbi by the name of Alexander Good.
The ship was torpedoed in the early morning hours when most men were still in their bunks. Upon being hit by the torpedo, the electrical system of the ship was destroyed, thus all the men were left in the dark, many trapped below decks. Very shortly thereafter, when panic began to set in, the chaplains tried to calm the men and organized an orderly evacuation of the ship, helping guide wounded men to safety. As life jackets were passed around, it soon became apparent that there weren’t enough to accommodate everybody. The chaplains stepped up, removed their life jackets, and gave them to others. Then they linked arms and began to pray together and sing hymns as they went down with the ship. Here’s the way one survivor described the scene:
“As I swam away from the ship, I looked back. The flares had lighted everything. The bow came up high and she slid under. The last thing I saw, the four chaplains were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them, again. They themselves did not have a chance without their life jackets.”
According to some reports, the survivors could hear different languages mixed in the prayers of these chaplains, including Hebrew prayers. These were four people who typically would be very distant to one another in terms of their beliefs, yet adversity brought them together for the common good.
This is something that we will see more and more in the days, months, and years ahead as adversity increases against the people of God. Our differences will become less important as we come together in submission to His will. Selflessness is what brought these men together and it is an attribute exemplified by our Messiah who said:
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have love you. Greater love has no one that this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
Messiah was not only calling attention to His own sacrifice and example, but was also exhorting us to follow in that example and to do what is necessary when called upon. If we are to regarded as His disciples, we are expected to commit ourselves to those things that advance His purpose and will. If that means we must lay down our lives in order to sanctify His name, then that is what we must do. Although it very difficult to fathom, this is the kind of commitment that we all will need in the months and years ahead. We live in very perilous times and the adversary of our soul is out to steal, kill, and destroy.
It is important to keep in mind that God would never ask us to do something that He does not, first, give us the ability to do. He has called upon us to die to our will and, therefore, we must die to our wants and desires because He has empowered us to do so. This kind of selflessness is the only way that we can come to the place He wants us to be and fulfill His purpose in and through us. If we try to hang on to our lives and satisfy our will, then we die. But if we die for His sake, we shall live.