Memorial Day

As an American, Memorial Day reflects on the sacrifice of so many who won and kept our freedom. The roots of the celebration came after the American Civil War when it was first called “Decoration Day.” Memorial Day was celebrated for nearly 100 years after the Civil War, but it was not until in 1971 that day was standardized as the last Monday in May. As the unofficial beginning of summer, Memorial Day brings trips, travel, and family celebrations.

But as a special holiday in the life of our country, Memorial Day can teach us about more than just taking some time to relax. Here are some lessons we can apply from Memorial Day.

Allegiance. My friend and former teacher, Dr. Cameron Cloud wrote a piece last week entitled, Christians, Patriotism, and Idolatry. Cloud articulated, “Being a good citizen is part of being a good Christian, and being a good Christian makes me a better citizen.” He’s right. While some on the right and left make an idol of politics, politicians, and parties, Christians should be different. Christians should be good citizens who submit to the government because their primary allegiance to Jesus leads them to live out a healthy allegiance to family, church, and nation (see Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17).

Honor. In 1 Peter 2:17, the apostle wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” To honor is to value and give others proper respect. Honor is all too rare these days. Our founders pledged their life, liberty, wealth, and honor in the War for Independence and to the fledgling country. Many military heroes (past and present) have served their country with honor and valor. For an astounding picture of honor, read the stories of Charlie Brown and Franz Stiegler in Adam Makos’ book A Higher Call. Brown was a B-27 bomber pilot whose mission over Germany in WWII resulted in the near destruction of his plane. Some of his crew were killed, two engines were out, his machine guns had frozen, and his rear stabilizing wing was gone. Brown’s B-27 was damaged and defenseless. When Franz Stiegler, a German fighter ace, flew behind the limping B-27, he acted with honor. Instead of finishing the bomber off, Steigler tried to get the bomber to land or fly to neutral Sweden. Eventually, because Stiegler flew in formation next to the bomber, he escorted the bomber over German flack fields and out over the Atlantic where they parted ways. The book details the stories of both men and the honor that permeated the act of chivalry. The ending of the book is fascinating. As followers of Jesus, honoring others is a command and should be part of our character.

Remembrance. This is the primary reason for Memorial Day. When we memorialize something/someone, we remember. Since the days of the War for Independence, those serving in the armed forces have bled and died for the freedoms we experience. Brave men and women have given everything to bring the freedoms we appreciate to other lands. It is right and appropriate that we remember their sacrifices. So as you grill out, enjoy friends, take a day off, or celebrate your freedoms, don’t forget that your freedoms weren’t free. Remember those who pledged their honor, valor, and lives to the cause of freedom.

Repentance. I’ve observed the political and national tensions of the past year. It appears that there are competing and irreconcilable visions for the United States. The political divisions coupled with the racial tensions have been especially difficult to watch. Accusations of anarchy and idolatrous nationalism have been made by members of various sides of the political spectrum. As citizens of a great country with enormous freedoms, the animosity and division is troubling. As citizens of a heavenly kingdom, we must realize that the solutions to our national problems do not ultimately reside in parties or politicians. These tensions (the pandemic, racial divisions, political animosities, international uncertainties, etc.) are all warnings. God is shouting loudly to his people through these events. He’s inviting us to repent. For repentance to precipitate a move of God, it must start with God’s people. Let this Memorial Day remind you to look yourself in the mirror, acknowledge your guilt, and repent of your sins.

I believe that God wants our everyday experiences (even our celebrations) to bring us to Him. Would you give God your attention this Memorial Day and apply these lessons to your life?

Photo by Tanner Ross on Unsplash

On Memorial Day we remember the great sacrifices of the men and women who gave their fortunes, their youth, their health, and their lives to the cause of freedom.  This weekend, give gratitude and thanks for their sacrifices which poignantly, if imperfectly, illustrate the greatest sacrifice of God himself through Jesus Christ for the freedom of mankind.

I would like to echo these words from our nation’s founder and first President, George Washington, as he prayed:

Almighty and eternal Lord God, the great creator of heaven & earth, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; look down from heaven, in pity and compassion upon me thy servant, who humbly prostrate myself before thee, sensible of thy mercy and my own misery; there is an infinite distance between thy glorious majesty and me, thy poor creature, the work of thy hand, between thy infinite power, and my weakness, thy wisdom, and my folly, thy eternal Being, and my mortal frame, but, O Lord, I have set myself at a greater distance from the by my sin and wickedness and humbly acknowledge the corruption of my nature and the many rebellions of my life… I humbly beseech thee to be merciful to me in the free pardon of my sins, for the sake of thy dear Son, my only Savior, J.C.*, who came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance; be pleased to renew my nature and write thy laws upon my heart, and help me to live, righteously, soberly, and godly in this evil worlds [sic]; make me humble, meek, patient and contented, and work in me the grace of thy holy spirit… Help all in affliction or adversity—give them patience and a sanctified use of their affliction, and in thy good time deliverance from them; forgive my enemies, take me unto thy protection this day, keep me in perfect peace, which I ask for in the name & for the sake of Jesus. Amen.

This prayer from Washington was found in his field journal which was with him during his time served as general of the continental army.  Washington was remembered as a man of prayer and devotion.  Other of Washington’s prayers and details about his spiritual life can be found in George Washington’s Prayers by Robert Pelton.

I chose this prayer because at Mud Creek Baptist Church this Sunday Dr. Mathis will be preaching on the great exchange Jesus offered to us by His death on the cross.  I believe Washington’s confession and hope firmly set on Jesus illustrates our greatest need individually, corporately (as the body of Christ), and nationally—to confess in humility our sin and cast ourselves in faith upon Jesus Christ.

We should celebrate the sacrifices of many on this Memorial Day.  We should express gratitude to those who have served and are serving our nation to preserve freedom.  But let us remember these are but illustrations of the great and glorious sacrifice of Jesus for our freedom.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

What a truth!

What an exchange!

What a memorial sacrifice illustrated on this day of national celebration that should drive us to genuine spiritual worship!

* J.C. was used commonly by Washington as shorthand for Jesus Christ.