Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering those who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. Serving for us … so that we may live in a free country. This day was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the war. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
This weekend we celebrate something that I think is sometimes hard for many of us to comprehend: the sacrifice of military lives for the sake of our freedom.
While each fallen service man or women has a unique story, each one is a hero who willingly laid down his or her life for a greater cause.
I think part of our struggle to understand the fallen hero comes with our difficulty in accepting sacrifice, especially when a sacrifice seems so final and appears to hold no obvious reward. The idea that anyone could give up everything – for people he doesn’t even know – is hard to process. We spend so much of life trying to gain, to acquire, to win. Our country is home to the American Dream, the land of opportunity. So contemplating the fallen hero can feel uncomfortable, at times even confusing.
We call these warrior’s “service men / women” yet that term should describe Christians as well. Just as sacrifice is required to secure our freedom as Americans, freedom does not exist independently of sacrifice in the life of the believer. Yes, faith brings us freedom – freedom from sin, freedom to be who God made us to be and to know God more deeply. But that freedom came with the price of the Cross and our gift of freedom is to be used for service.
To many it may seem pointless in some ways to acquire freedom only to turn around and serve. But here are two thoughts; one, is that the free person who chooses to serve knows freedom like no other. He has no need of taking from others because his sense of worth comes from a higher source. It’s often said of those with true servant-hearts – it is only when we give ourselves away that we truly find ourselves. The second is a truth we all need to remind ourselves of when life seems hard or unfair: this life is nothing compared to the next. Anything we “lose” here is never truly lost if our lives belong to Christ.
We have this promise in scripture, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Mt 20:16). Grow your servant’s heart by striving to take last place – even if it’s as simple as being last in line at the grocery store, helping someone without being asked (or thanked) or serving yourself last at the dinner table.