Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades.
While most of us will be enjoying cookouts and outdoor activities today, I believe that it’s incumbent upon us to remember that more than 1.1 million Americans were killed in all U.S. wars since our country’s inception. Regardless of your stand on the issue of armed conflict, it’s hard to avoid the humbling and sobering feelings that emerge when you consider the fact that so many citizens willingly placed themselves in harm’s way, and paid the ultimate sacrifice for a cause they believed in.
One of my favorite movies is the 1998 World War II film Saving Private Ryan. Based on a true story, the film depicts the experience of eight US soldiers who go behind enemy lines to save their comrade, paratrooper Private Ryan. In the process, many of the men lose their lives on their mission to save one man. Toward the end of the film, in one of the most stirring scenes in the movie, the leader of the team, Captain Miller (played by Tom Hanks), is fatally shot. Ryan runs to him, and as he is dying, the captain looks at Ryan and says four words: “Earn this. Earn this.” What Captain Miller asked of Ryan is, of course, impossible. No man could ever live a life well enough to “earn” the ultimate sacrifice of six other men. But at that moment, Ryan realizes the high price that was paid for his life and that because of this, he has an obligation to live a good life.
Now, let’s shift gears…
In a spiritual sense, we are all like Private Ryan. We needed to be rescued. A very high price was paid for us. Jesus was willing to give up His life so we might have eternal life and freedom. In many ways, our response can only be to live in such a way as to reflect our gratitude for what Christ has done for us. But it goes even deeper than that. The members of the team searching for Ryan often quarreled among themselves about whether Ryan was worth the risk. But when it came to you and me, Jesus had no doubt. In God’s eyes, you were worth the price of His Son’s life.
So, how can we respond to such an unspeakable gift – such an amazing sacrifice? Paul said in Ephesians 4:1, “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received from God.” In other words, live a life that reflects the immeasurable worth Jesus demonstrated that he saw in you when He endured the horrors of crucifixion, just so that He could bring you and me into right standing with God.
How will you do that today? Surrender your life to him, and live worthy of the sacrifice He made for you as best as you can.