It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived ~ General George Patton
There are many days in the calendar year that are run by Hallmark. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc. As a pastor there is pressure to conform the church preaching calendar to the Hallmark calendar in an effort to keep in step with the culture. This is not always a bad thing – for it is a good thing to hear what God has to say in His Word about Mothers and Fathers and true love. For me, I don’t mind having a moment for Mothers and Fathers on their respective days, but at our church we don’t usually bow the knee to these cultural moments (to know why we don’t, read this).
Memorial Day on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Such that, in our evening service last night, we devoted a large amount of time to praying for troops past and present.
Why? Two large reasons (at least).
a) Military life Resembles much of the Christian life
When one enlists in any branch of the military two things happen – they lose much and they gain much. They lose their rights, their will, and their preferences while gaining a commanding officer along with his will and preferences. Now, rejecting what they want to do and embracing the plans/commands of another is their aim. This commanding officer is to be instantly obeyed, honored, and highly respected. Does this not resemble what it means to become a Christian and live the Christian life?
‘…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body’ (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Paul’s words here on the Christian life teach us a lot. On becoming a Christian we no longer are our own master. We have been bought with a price, our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we have a new Master. And with a new Commander comes new commands. Commands that we must hear and heed. For the Christian life now is lived according to His will and desires rather than our own.
Paul explicitly mentions the military lifestyle (along with athletics and farming) to describe how Christians ought to live in 2 Timothy 2 when he says, ‘Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him’ (2 Tim. 2:3-4). See here that Christians are not only called good soldiers of Christ Jesus, but that civilian pursuits are no longer fitting to those who are enlisted as soldiers of Christ. Christians aren’t to be entangled with the the world any longer. What then matters? What then are we to give our lives to and become entangled with? One thing – pleasing the One who enlisted us – God. The military life displays this for us.
b) Military life puts Christ-like Sacrifice on Display
It is good for us to see the above point. But there’s a larger reason to honor those in military service today – they put a Christ-like sacrifice on display for us. 1 Peter 3:18 says, ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the Righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God…’ Jesus willingly gave Himself in behalf of His people so that His people would be saved from the wrath of God and given a redemption we don’t deserve. In John 15 Jesus makes a connection between His own death and all those who would do similar acts of costly sacrifice for others. ‘This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:12-13).
The commandment to love others as Jesus loved us is a call to death. It is a call to a life of costly sacrifice. A call that causes us to lay down our lives for our friends. This is what real love looks like, because this is how Jesus loved His people. This is what those in military service face more often than we’re aware of. Many of you know families who have lost loved ones from war. Some of you may even have family members of your own who have laid down their lives in war. This is a sacrifice that is worth honoring because it is an in flesh example of Christ-like love. There is no greater love than this because it costs the ultimate price – life.
Therefore, we admit and grieve that we live in a world where war is a reality. This will not last forever, but while it does last we grieve it’s presence. But in light of this grieving, it is not only fitting and right for us to honor soldiers of all ranks whenever we come across them in public, it is right for us to honor them on Memorial Day. They, a) teach us much about the what the Christian life looks like, and b) display Christ’s sacrificial, costly, gospel love for His own people to us afresh.
For this, we ought to be grateful.
Take time today to thank those you know for their service, pray for them, and teach your children to do the same. Thank God that such men have lived this kind of life.