This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day, when we remember and give thanks for those who have given their lives in defense of our country. I pray that we will remember it not just as a holiday weekend after a long quarantine, but as a solemn moment to remember and give thanks for those who gave their lives that we might live ours.
I took a look at some of the statistics and well over a million Americans have died in combat. Depending on what is included in the number (combat deaths alone, deaths later from wartime injuries, deaths from other circumstances brought about by the war, etc.) America’s deadliest war was either the Civil War (counting the casualties on both sides) or World War II.
But no matter how one might slice and dice the numbers, they are staggering, especially when we remember that each one is a tragedy. Each one was not just a life lost but a family left grieving and lost. Each life was (and is) precious in the sight of God.
Scripture teaches us to honor those who give their lives for others. First and foremost, because that is the example Jesus set before us. Listen to the words of Paul, describing Jesus’ sacrifice: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
Jesus himself told the disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)
So, this Memorial Day we give solemn thanks for those who have made the greatest sacrifice. And in doing so, we take on a sacred obligation — an obligation that we not forget their sacrifice, nor let that sacrifice be in vain. That calls us each to use the freedom won for us in a way that honors the cost of that freedom. Their sacrifice calls us to work to build a just and peaceful society that truly benefits all. To take our freedom for granted is to take their sacrifice for granted. To squander the opportunity to make the world a better place, in whatever grand or small ways we can, is to squander what has been given to us.
As we enjoy a long weekend (especially after 2 months plus of quarantine!) with a barbecue and some family time, let us also commit ourselves again to building lives and communities that honor those who sacrificed that we might enjoy that opportunity. In so doing, I believe we also honor God.
So, what can you do to make this a better place?
This column appeared in the May 24, 2020 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
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