What is Memorial Day to you? For some, it’s the unofficial start to summer, the kickoff to cookouts and beach trips. But Memorial Day is so much more than that. It is a time to remember the brave men and women of our military who laid down their lives for our freedoms.
We are living in a time when the magnitude of that privilege and the depth of that sacrifice is striking. Headlines from across the world underscore the reality of how precious our freedom really is. Freedom to worship and serve God both publicly and privately. Freedom to vote for our leaders. Freedom to voice our agreements and our dissents. Freedom to send our sons and daughters to school.
But freedom inherently costs something. According to data from Statista, the cost of freedom in this country from 1775 to the present day is well over one million American service members’ lives. On a day like today, it’s important to let that number fully sink in. Fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. People like you and me whose sacrifice yesterday paved the way for our freedom today.
So, what is freedom? I’d venture to guess that it is more difficult for those of us who were born into a free nation to fully grasp what freedom is. Perhaps too often we mistake freedom as a license to do whatever we please, to go about our lives with our heads down focusing on our own individual life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. But I think, in reality, freedom brings forth deep responsibility. To truly honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for that freedom, we must invest equally in both the celebration of our liberty as well as the responsibility we bear to advancing its cause.
The single best example of this is the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Fully God and fully man, Jesus came from Heaven to earth in order to free us all from the bondage of sin and death. The price of His great love for us was His life on the cross. The gift was our freedom. But when we receive this freedom, we do not use it as an excuse to go on doing whatever we please. We do not use the blood of Jesus as a “get out of jail free card” nor do we keep His freedom to ourselves.
Galatians 5:13 (HCSB) tells us, “For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.” When we receive salvation through Christ, we inherit true, everlasting freedom. But we are called to use this freedom to serve others not ourselves.
And here’s the thing, there are no strings attached to the freedom He brings. No fine print or legal jargon for us to decipher. Just the purest form of freedom we’ll ever know. Does it require anything of us in return? No. But it inherently changes us. It inspires us. It brings forth courage. It generates an unquenching desire to share His message and His freedom with the world.
Standing in the light of freedom should change our perspective on the world. Suddenly we don’t view sin the same way we used to. Our hearts become more attuned to the lost. Our eyes search for opportunities to share the love of Jesus with those around us. When we see the cross, the price of our freedom resounds in our hearts. It produces a sense of responsibility to love others as Christ loved us. A responsibility to share the gospel. A responsibility to live a life fully submitted to God. Responsibilities not born out of requirement or obligation, but out of His great love that overflows in us.
So, what do we do with our freedom in Christ? We press into and depend on Him. We grow to desire His will for our lives. We try (and sometimes fail, only to try again) to serve and love people the way He showed us to. We form communities of believers who operate as the Body of Christ. We serve in our churches. We take on roles and responsibilities according to our gifts and talents.
But how does this translate to our freedom as Americans? The sense of responsibility may not come as naturally as it does with our freedom in Christ, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. Remember that there was a price to our freedom here, and there are threats that continue to exist against it. Perhaps the best way to honor the lives of our fallen service members is to not only spend the day remembering and honoring their sacrifice but to spend time finding ways you can share in the responsibility that freedom brings.
Serve your community. What are you good at and how can you use those gifts to assist those around you? When you see problems, work to find and be a solution. Contribute your time to local food pantries or soup kitchens. Donate goods to charitable missions. Take pride in your neighborhoods and care for them. Form real community. Give to your neighbors without the expectation of return. Support military and first responder families with your prayers, your time, and your acts of service. Use your vote, because it matters.
The reality is, that we aren’t all called to serve in our military, but we are all called to serve. Much like how we serve in our church community, we are all equipped in different ways to serve our country. Even if just at the neighborhood or local level, our contributions matter. Today is a great day to get started.
Join me today in taking a moment today to thank God for the freedom He gave us in His son, Jesus. Thank a service member for their sacrifices on our behalf and the civil freedoms they’ve fought for. Pray for the families and friends of those who gave their lives in service to this country.
Remember the words of Jesus in John 15:13 (HCSB) when He said, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” Today we honor the men and women who have given their lives in service to this country. We celebrate freedom and we challenge ourselves to live lives that bear witness to the magnitude of that gift.
Thank you to all Veterans and fallen service members, and to each of their families who share equally in their sacrifices.