Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is a national holiday to honor the memory of fallen soldiers.
It is a day to remember those who have given their lives serving in defending our country. It is a day to reflect on the significance of their sacrifice, the courage of their convictions and their commitment to our country. It is a day to be reminded of the grand history of the USA. And it is a day to accord respect to those who have served with honor.
There is no clear record when or where this holiday began. Over two dozen cities and towns lay claim to the birth place of Memorial Day. There is evidence that women’s groups in the South began decorating the graves of Confederate Soldiers before the end of the Civil War.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan and first observed May 30, 1868. For many years it was known as “Decoration Day.” I can recall as a youngster going to the Mace cemetery in Montgomery County Indiana and my Grandma Weliever calling it “Decoration Day.” In 1971 Congress changed the official celebration to the last Monday in May. It has become a time not only to honor those killed in war, but to remember all of our loved ones who have died.
Memorial Day is not a religious holiday or holy day. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek. Male nor female. Bond or free. All are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). Yet Christianity does not remove our individual identity, ethnicity, or nationality. In each country and culture, Christians can observe their traditions and celebrate their nationality.
Furthermore, our spiritual consecration to Christ and our allegiance to our homeland are not incompatible. In recent years there has been a shift in some circles to suggest that loyalty to “the land of the free and the home of the brave” is a bad thing. In fact, there seems to be some backlash, either spoken or unspoken, toward our military today.
It is appropriate to recognize civil authorities and accord them their due respect. In this regard, Paul issued this exhortation to the Roman brethren.
“Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Rom. 13:5-7).
Soldiers who serve our country are deserving of our deepest respect. Some of the finest Christians I have known through the years either served for a time in the military or made it their career. By the way, remember that the first Gentile convert, Cornelius, was a military man.
Christians who serve our country in the Armed Forces also have a unique opportunity to serve the Lord and let their light shine around the world. May God bless them.
A balanced view also demands that we realize patriotism can be either a virtue or a vice. Of course, this is true of any relationship, feeling or object of our affection. We feel a special pride in our families–children and grandchildren. We may have an affinity for a school, college or university that we attended or support. We may wear the colors and fly the flag of a sports team that we root for. But pride in these should never supersede our love for the Lord, our dedication to His cause, and the greater emphasis to spiritual priorities.
Like many of you I will reminisce and remember my loved ones who have passed on to their reward. My father. My mother. My brother. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. Classmates. Friends. And fellows soldiers in Christ.
It is good to remember. And be reminded that “the memory of the righteous is a blessing” (Prov. 10:7).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman