Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. John 15:13 NIV
Memorial Day. Sometimes we treat it as just another day, or maybe we’re excited for the first free day of summer when we can get together with friends and family, and grill something, maybe play in the water and relax.
But as fun as all that is, and as needful, in our high-stress lives, there’s so much more here. This day, and the reason we get to celebrate, is a heavy gift.
This day is our reminder that Freedom isn’t Free. It’s costly.
This week, in particular, we remember all the men and women who have sacrificed their time, their safety, their freedom, and even their lives, so that the ones they love – and the people they don’t even know – could enjoy freedom and safety and life.
They’ve given us an extremely valuable gift, and we mustn't waste it.
If you’ve never met someone like Steve Rogers, who would dive on a live grenade to take the hit and protect the bystanders (Captain America: The First Avenger), fly dangerous missions with no guarantee of coming home alive, spy out enemy secrets and get them to headquarters in whatever way possible, then let me ask you a few questions.
1. Why would anyone choose discomfort and danger voluntarily?
While not everyone can say this, many are following God’s example.
Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. [Eph 5:1-2 NIV]
2. What’s the greatest display of love they may have seen?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [John 3:16 NIV]
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. [John 15:13 NIV]
3. How can we live this out in our everyday lives?
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:7-11 NIV
Laying down your life doesn’t have to literally mean death, it can mean any number of ways that you put someone else ahead of yourself. Let’s choose to not demand our way every time. Allow ourselves to be uncomfortable on someone else’s behalf. (Please do not confuse this with being a doormat! There is a world of difference here.)
Some of the best examples of living this out come from Christian fiction. I love learning through CF, because it takes some abstract principles, and puts them into 3D living color. The good, bad, ugly and hard, the beautiful, it’s all there. And far easier to learn from, many times, than a textbook.
In honor of Memorial Day, let me introduce you to a few of my favorite soldiers and spies.
Penelope J. Stokes Faith on the Homefront trilogy is a powerful story of a group of friends, at home and on the battlefield. Young adults dealing with controlling parents, complex situations and wrestling with their faith in the midst of WWII.
And the magic that is in each of Sarah Sundin’s WWII trilogies will really make you think. You’ll appreciate the meaning of sacrifice, friendship, sibling rivalry gone haywire, forgiveness and restoration.
Hallee Bridgeman’s Virtues and Valors series is based on real people and events, a group of female spies you won’t soon forget. Their courage and sacrifices will leave you changed.
Whether we’re talking fiction or real life, the love and sacrifice behind every uniform is real.
I was raised to appreciate that gift of love, and show my gratitude to any military member or veteran I meet. Even a simple thank you when you recognize that you’re standing next to one of these heroes in the grocery store seems to matter. Joining a group sending care packages is another way, and best of all, prayer. Praying for our troops and our veterans is one of the best things we can do.
Dear Lord, Today I want to take extra time to thank you for Your sacrifice for us, laying your life down so that we might live through you, and giving us the ultimate example of what it means to lay down our lives for our friends and family.
Thank you for putting service on the hearts and minds of the men and women who have chosen to give their all for people they don’t even know. I ask that you would give them an extra measure of your love and presence. Give them wisdom in how to balance their service to you and our country, especially in those tough situations where the two are not in sync.
I pray that you would fill the rest of us with compassion and support for the men and women who actively defend our freedoms, and for their families, and help us to find ways to be an encouragement to them. Amen
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