Remembering on Memorial Day
On the last Monday of May, Americans celebrate Memorial Day each year. It is a day that has been set apart to remember Americans who have given their lives in the defense of their country. This post examines this American tradition of remembering their fallen soldiers. It then encourages Christians to also remember the sacrificial death of their Savior Jesus Christ and their martyred brethren on Memorial Day.
Remember Fallen Soldiers
On Veterans Day we appreciate all military veterans (past and present) who have been willing to hazard their lives to protect our nation. On Memorial Day we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice by dying for us. They died protecting our country, so we might continue enjoying peace and prosperity, freedom and democracy, and the ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
On Memorial Day we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by dying for us.
I remember Memorial Day being a big deal when I was young. I remember parades down the main streets of town. Those who served in World War II and other veterans marched down the road in uniform. High-school bands, Boy Scout troops and other groups would join them. The roadside was crowded with cheering throngs who gathered to watch.
Memorial Day seems to have lost its grandeur. Perhaps it declined because “the greatest generation” who fought in WWII began to pass away. Maybe the unpopularity of the Vietnam War soured people’s attitude toward this holiday. Perhaps millions of our immigrants do not identify with our past. Or maybe we have just become complacent, taking our freedoms for granted as if they were an entitlement that cost nothing.
I am glad we still have the Memorial Day holiday to remind Americans that our freedoms are not free.
Whatever the reason, I am sorry for the diminished stature of this once grand holiday. For most people, this special day just signals the beginning of summer, celebrated with picnics and the opening of pools. It has become a day for sales and paid time off from work. I enjoy all those things but find it sad that Memorial Day has largely lost its meaning.
I am glad we still have the Memorial Day holiday to remind Americans that our freedoms are not free. I am also heartened by the support given our military men and women.
Remember Jesus Christ on Memorial Day
As I think about those who died protecting our freedoms in America, I am reminded of the King who came to free us from servitude to sin and its consequences. Christ did battle with Satan and the children of darkness, ultimately paying price of death on a cruel cross. Jesus voluntarily laid down His life to pay the wages of our sin (Romans 6:23), so we could be saved from wrath (Romans 5:9) and have eternal life.
Unlike our fallen American soldiers, Jesus rose from His grave, demonstrating His power over sin and death. He now sits on the right hand of the Father in heaven, making intercession for us. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell those who trust in Him, to seal us, comfort us and guide us as we live for Him. Greater is the Spirit of God within us than the evil one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to carry on the fight as soldiers of the cross, wearing His righteousness while doing battle with sin. We are called to don the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17) and do battle with the devil and his minions. We are called to be salt and light (Mt 5:13-16) in a dark world, revealing the truth of God and the way of salvation, rescuing the lost from their sin and eternal death in hell.
Remember Christian Martyrs on Memorial Day
Memorial Day also reminds me of millions of Christian soldiers who have died in their Lord’s service. Peter, Paul and all the other apostles were martyred for their faith and ministry (except for John who didn’t die despite being boiled in oil). A multitude of Christ’s followers were killed during the persecutions of Nero and others during the first few centuries after Christ.
Since Christ’s resurrection, millions of Christians have been martyred for their faith at the hands of hostile governments, mobs and religions. We have even died at the hands of corrupt church leaders. John Wycliffe and William Tyndale were both killed for translating the Bible into the language of the people, so all could read it. John Huss, Martin Luther and others were martyred during the reformation. Others, like Jim Elliot, have died on the mission field.
Christians are the most persecuted people on the planet
Persecution and martyrdom have not stopped; they continue to this day. Thousands of Christians (estimates range from 7,000 to over 100,000) are killed for their faith every year. Because of religious intolerance, Christians are the most persecuted people on the planet.
So, I thank God everyday for the freedom of speech and religion we still have here in America. Our freedoms as Christians are under attack and someday we may lose them. We must use them to advance the cause of Christ while we can.
I am exceedingly grateful for those who serve in our military defending our constitutional rights. I grieve for those who have died preserving our peace and prosperity, and sorrow for the loss their families have suffered. And most of all, I am thankful for the Lord Jesus Christ who willingly laid down His life that we might be saved and have everlasting life.
Remember to Remember
I encourage all Americans to remember the meaning of Memorial Day and honor the memory of the soldiers who died for our country. I encourage all Christians to remember Christ’s death on the cross to pay for our sin. Remember the millions of Christians who have been martyred for their faith, and pray for those suffering persecution throughout the world today.
I wish you all a blessed Memorial Day!
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