Since the 1800s the United States of America has set aside a day upon which we intentionally remember those who have given their lives in military service to this country. In 1967 the official name of “Memorial Day” was assigned, and in 1971 the last Monday in May each year officially became the occasion for its observance. On Memorial Day, Americans may experience a solemn gratitude, and we should certainly consider the many families that have lost loved ones in military service.
No doubt there are several families in my own congregation who morn the loss of friends and family members even now. These losses are painful, and yet we recognize the nobility in them. These soldiers have given their lives for the sake of others. We, who gain from their great loss, do honor their memory today. We thank God for their sacrifice, which has purchased our freedoms and advanced the cause of human dignity around the world.
We thank God for men and women who value the “ideal,” the “cause,” the “greater good” over their own lives. Certainly, those who died can only answer for themselves what prompted them to risk so great a prize. It is reasonable, however, to understand that no sane person gives their life for nothing. In fact, we memorialize these lives lost precisely because we have benefitted from such sacrifices.
It is important for us to remember that self-sacrifice is not a human virtue that arises from just any worldview – especially not sacrifice for the sake of others. NO, this kind of honorable action (whether knowingly or unknowingly) is only motivated by a belief that happiness and pleasure in this life is not the height of satisfaction. Instead, one must believe that there are much greater experiences and joys.
Of course, Jesus Christ is the quintessential example of this kind of belief and sacrifice. The Bible proclaims that God the Son came into the world in order to live and die for the benefit of others. God became a man, Christ lived and died, and He conquered death forevermore. This He did in order that sinners like us would receive the greatest benefit of all – right relationship with our Creator and beautiful intimacy with Covenant God of our salvation.
Let us, this day, remember those soldiers who have died in military service for our benefit. Let us thoughtfully pray for the families and friends they have left behind. And let us praise and worship the God who has exemplified the greatest demonstration of such virtue, for He has given us hope that there will be a day when these kinds of memorials will be no more.