Xavier Alverez lied about his medals, his wounds and his service record in the US military. In fact, he also claimed that he had played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings, rescued the American Ambassador during the Iranian hostage crisis and was also shot when he went back to save the American flag. Consequently, Alvarez became the first person charged under a 2006 law aimed at curbing false claims about military valor. But the courts apparently didn’t think that was a crime – they maintain that nobody else was hurt because of his fabrications. In fact, his own attorney detailed six lies Alvarez told, but those apparently didn’t hurt anyone either, as he was acquitted.
It is a little known fact that George Washington birthed the idea of recognizing valor on the battlefield in 1782, more than 7 years before he became the first president; he also instituted severe penalties for those people who claimed false valor. Wearing medals that were not earned carried severe penalties, but in this case, the court found that since nobody was “hurt” by the allegations, and since Alvarez had not actually worn the medals, they figured that there was no damage.
Now never mind that people voted for Alvarez for public office, or that they depended on his honesty and integrity. The American Civil Liberties Union became uncomfortable with the attempts to squash his rights to free speech and so they got in on the case. In San Fransisco, a three judge panel found that the law to curb stolen valor inhibited the rights of free speech, although a court an appellate court in Denver upheld the law in a separate case, claiming that the First Amendment does not always protect free speech in the case of false statements.
To be sure, Alvarez was not the first to have trouble with lying about medals. Once, apparently, the Air Force actually named a medal for a man who supposedly said that he survived the Bataan Death March. It was a lie. And more than one member of Congress has tried to honor somebody who lied about service to the country.
So, what we have is the acknowledgment that it is a crime to wear medals not earned, but not a crime to claim to have won medals as a result of valor on the battlefield. Now tell me, is that right? By the way, there are only 3475 Medal of Honor winners in the history of the United States, yet many more claims than that arise every year.
So how should we define valor? The dictionary says that it is “courage in the face of great danger.” Kind of like life here on earth, waiting for eternal life in heaven. Because it takes courage to overcome the things of the world. And the Bible is full of examples of valor, especially when we read about the battle of David and his Mighty Men. But there are many other instances of valor as well.
One might even say that Christ was courageous and exhibited valor during his life here on earth. Our verse tonight comes from Christ Himself. In John 16:33 we are reminded by Christ, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” So Christ encourages us to be people of valor – receiving our strength from the fact that Jesus overcame the world and so there is hope for us to spend eternity with Him.
My encouragement is to let you know that with Jesus as a model of behavior, we can all be men and women of valor. And my prayer is that you will stay the course, claim the prize, fight the battle and not merely claim that you were part of the solution when you didn’t bother to get in the action. We have enough impostors already and we need legitimate people to carry on the Good News of the Kingdom. Have a great day in the Lord!