Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends
Today is Memorial Day. It is the day we as Americans honor the men and women of the United States Armed Forces who selflessly gave of their lives for our country. It is the day we remember and recognize their sacrifice; for many, it is a day of mourning.
Dating back to the Civil War, Memorial Day is a holiday steeped in our country’s history and tradition. It was originally called “Decoration Day,” because it was the day friends and family placed flowers on the soldiers’ gravesites. Today it represents the unofficial start of summer; a day to be with friends, lay poolside, rest, and enjoy backyard barbecues. It is a day we celebrate our freedom; but, we must strive to remember the heroes who made this freedom possible.
Let’s take a closer look at the gospel of John. In chapter 15, Jesus teaches about the vine and the branches and later warns about the world’s hatred. In verse 13, the Lord describes one’s willingness to die for the service of others as the ultimate act of love. We are to love each other as Jesus loved us, and He loved us enough to give His life for us. Is He a hero? I feel confident that the Lord holds a special place in heaven for all the military personnel who have perished while serving.
We may not have to die for someone, but there are many ways to practice this sacrificial love. Listening, helping, encouraging, and giving are just a few examples. We witness this type of love expressed by the mourners of the fallen soldiers; they decorated their graves with flowers. And we see this tradition carried on today. Many visit cemeteries to pay their respects, to place American flags near the tombstones, and to honor and observe the sacrifice of another. Friends, Jesus’s word, “lay down one’s life,” is also an attitude, not just an action.
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus
2 Timothy 2:3
In 2 Timothy, Paul uses a comparison with soldiers; soldiers who must discipline themselves and be willing to sacrifice in order to achieve the results they desire. As Christians, when we gave our lives to Christ, we joined His army! We became soldiers, the ones called to fight for the advancing of His kingdom. And like earthly soldiers, we are to give up worldly security and endure rigorous discipline. But we know to keep going despite suffering because of God’s promise of victory.
Today, as we reflect on those who went before us, who stood on the front lines as our defenders, and who gave of themselves so that we could live, I encourage you to not only honor and remember them but also celebrate and recognize the gifts they have provided. It is a day of reflection and appreciation.
Like the disciples in John’s gospel and the fallen soldiers who earned us our freedom, Jesus is asking each of us to also perform the ultimate act of love: to lay down our lives…for Him.
God bless each of you this Memorial Day.