It’s that time of year: we’re in the middle of significant “special days” that demand attention, medals, and recognition.
Retail advertising – on-line and in-print – will be running “Dads & Grads” as a key theme. Fathers – for families that are still aligned with the traditional pattern of father/mother/kids who are linked long-term – will get their day in a few weeks. Until June 17th, Grads will get the attention. Caps and gowns come out for preschool, elementary, middle and high school finishers, but the big shout-out goes to the college graduates who will get an Amazon gift-card from their family fans… and a payment book from their lenders (average undergraduate student debt is now $39,400).
Those cultural milestones are imminent, but today is a moment to slow down and express our gratitude for a category of Americans who may have been grads and dads in their civilian life, but are remembered today for a contribution they made to our life and liberty: they were members of our military community who died while serving in action.
In many churches yesterday, Memorial Day included a “stand up if you are now – or, have been in the past – a member of our armed forces.” Recognition of the men and women who have volunteered to be part of our national defense is always great, but this holiday is focused specifically on the ultimate sacrifice made by people who accepted the possibility of death as reasonable in protecting their own loving families and great country. Patriotism is, for many, a low-cost attribute; for them, it was a personal value purchased at the highest cost imaginable.
Recognizing the great contribution of warriors is a vital responsibility. In America, we do that through annual holidays, but specific personal affirmations for exemplary status is expressed through military medals and decorations.
For men and women who are wounded in action, the Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president. Since its inception, over 1 million of these medals have been designated – to recipients who survived their wounds as well as those who did not.
The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest recognition bestowed on those whose heroism has set them apart as extraordinary. Awarded to just 3,518 since it was formalized in 1861, it designates the most exemplary conduct imaginable in service under fire.
Service to our nation warrants high praise; service to God’s Kingdom deserves similar consideration. Our King doesn’t wear a ceremonial uniform bearing virtual or honorary medals; he has earned his commendations from his front-line service as he warred against our evil enemy.
His Purple Heart was earned on Good Friday. From the battlefield account: “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
The wounds he suffered in the fight for life – our life – were worthy of merit, but his victory over sin and death was so awesome that his commendation by the Ultimate Authority is unmatched: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2). That’s God’s Medal of Honor…
Our American heroes are worthy of our respect and admiration, but our Heavenly Hero deserves that and more: he has earned our worship and reverence. With Jesus, every day is Memorial Day…