Memorial Day in the United States honors those who have died in service to our country. For many, this is simply a day to enjoy a backyard barbecue with friends and family. But we have this day set aside for a reason. We can better use this day to not only remember the fallen but to reflect on the power of sacrifice—especially that of Jesus Christ on the cross. How do we do this?
First, look up the names and stories of some who died in service to our country. If you want a place to start, look up Air Force Captain David Lyon. You’ll find some good articles on him, but they won’t tell you that he was a young Christian who was hungrily growing in his faith, or that he was deployed to Afghanistan at the same time as his wife and refused to come home before her, or that he had just enjoyed Christmas with her and was killed a mile from our post just a little while after kissing her goodbye. This is why service members constantly tell the stories of their fallen friends. The more you focus on the individual stories, the more you will value the sacrifice.
In addition, consider the cost borne by the families who lost loved ones. Dave and Dana Lyon were going to start a family together. I have presented some 250 flags to widows at military funerals and you can read the countless memories of love and companionship alongside the heartache in their eyes. Thousands of dinner tables bear an empty seat where a parent or child once sat.
Second, reflect on why these sacrifices were necessary. Set aside the cynicism of the age which always calls into question the value of sacrifice. Whether you agreed with American involvement in a particular conflict or not, the fact that there were always Americans ready to serve and stand in the gap should inspire you. Our country—and much of the world with us—are free because of people like these. In a broken world, liberty and peace can only be preserved at the occasional cost of blood.
Third, in that same vein, remember why such sacrifice moves us. Who would die for their fellow man? Who would shed their blood for those who often take such blood for granted? My goal, like that of my hero J. Gresham Machen in WWI, is to make sure that the ears of service members are filled with the hope of the gospel. There is no sacrifice more moving than that of the God-man on the cross. He didn’t die for friends—he died for enemies and called them friends (Rom. 5:8). As we shouted “Crucify,” he shouted “Forgive.”
Memorial Day reminds us that civil liberty and peace are preserved by blood. In that way, we’re reminded that true liberty and peace with God came at the cost of the blood of our Savior. In a broken world, that bond can only be forged by blood. And he has done it.