May 31, 2016
Some holidays maintain more predictable agendas. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter – for Christians – become routine reenactments. Turkeys, trees, angels and eggs all have a place in our one-day-each-year celebration model. Memorial Day? Not so much…
The menu for Memorial Day: Hot dogs. Beach umbrellas. Remote controls. Fishing poles. TV-series marathons. Outlet malls. Secret scans of incoming e-mail read by those who can’t resist working…
Memorial Day was set-aside as a time for Americans to remember the men and women who died in combat, on behalf of our country. Spreadsheets are hard to find and/or audit, but reliable estimates of deaths on the battlefield – from the American Revolution to today’s actions in the Middle East – stand at 664, 440. Yesterday was designated as our day to remember those brave patriots.
For all of our amazing technological capabilities in the modern era, our memory – not in phones and laptops, but in our own experience – seems to be deficient.
Solomon predicted that shortcoming, 3000 years ago: “Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new?’ It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them,” (Ecclesiastes 1:10-11).
Most people spend 110% of their time living, and have little/no time to devote to thinking about the dead. But, the wisest man who ever lived knew that there is something to be learned from people who can no longer talk: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
Yesterday was the day to remember the dedication – and, the example – of Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country they considered worthy. Over the last 240 years, the great heroes have earned our regard and respect.
As Christians, the same exercise is worthwhile. Christians who die in spiritual battle are no less notable than our military losses. A Christian martyr is defined as “a believer in Christ who lost their life prematurely – in situations of witness – as a result of human hostility.”
The most egregious picture is the ISIS beheading of 21 Coptic Christian men on a beach because they would not renounce the Lord Jesus; the impersonal statistics estimate 45 million Christian martyrs during the 20th Century. That’s 67 Christian martyrs – in one century – for every American military death, in 240 years…
Every uniformed warrior pledges their life to their country, knowing that the ultimate price may be paid for their patriotism. The same deep resolve has defined the heroes of the Christian faith across two millennia.
On the front lines – where extremists who claim to represent other religions are gunning for Christians – the tenets of faith are reduced to the essential minimum: 1) Do you love Jesus? and, 2) Would you be willing to die for him?
God remembers the heroes of His Kingdom: “There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them…” (Hebrews 11).
It’s good to remember the fallen, and to follow their example.