Friday, May 16, 2014

A Fitting Memorial

            Memorial Day is almost here—a time for picnics and family get-togethers, a time to remember all those who died in the service of our country.  Sometimes I wonder whether our Memorial Day practices are truly a fitting memorial for those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.  Do we truly honor them with our tailgate parties?  Is that the freedom for which they died?  Pardon my cynicism, but I take issue with the Zac Brown Band “Chicken Fried,” which says:

I thank God for my life
And for the stars and stripes
May freedom forever fly
Let it ring
Salute the ones who died
The ones that give their lives
So we dont have to sacrifice
All the things we love
Like our chicken fried
And cold beer on a Friday night
A pair of jeans that fit just right
And the radio up

            If our men and women in uniform died so that we don’t have to sacrifice our fried chicken, cold beer, comfortable jeans, and loud radio, then they died for no reason at all.  Our selfless soldiers who sacrificed their lives on our behalf gave themselves to a greater cause than that.  They died to free us from political tyranny, religious oppression, and economic slavery.  This, and not our “chicken fried,” is something to die for.  For that, we owe them far more than a cheesy country song.
            In the same way, sometimes I wonder whether we offer a fitting memorial to Jesus, who paid a far greater price to save far more people than our soldiers ever will, and in far more eternal ways.  In John 15.13 (ESV), Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  Jesus shed His blood and died to prove His ultimate love for us.  Yet the Lord gave far more than His blood—He gave His holiness as well.  The Sinless One traded His righteousness for our sin, that we might have eternal life.  If He did this much for us, how do we memorialize Him?
            If you walk around any church’s building and grounds, you’ll find all sorts of memorials to faithful people and to the Lord.  Plaques on walls, windows, stones, furniture, and other markers honor the memory of saints who contributed of their spirit and substance in order to build the church.  Crosses, paintings, statues, and icons direct our gaze heavenward, inspiring us to remember our Lord.  But are these the most fitting memorials we can give?
            A son may send his dad a card on Father’s Day, but the best way to honor a good man is to live like him.  Similarly, the most fitting memorial we can give the saints of God who formed our faith is to model ourselves after their holy lives.  Even more so, believers who cast themselves in the mold of their Maker bear a far better image than any statue ever could.  What’s the most fitting memorial?  To live as someone worth dying for. 
            This Memorial Day, I hope you’ll honor the ones who gave their lives so that you might be free.  I hope you’ll remember Jesus, who gave far more than they ever could, so that you could be eternally free.  Then, I hope you’ll offer a fitting memorial.  Far better than a plaque on carved rock, 1 Peter 2.5 (ESV) says that “You are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What's more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.”  This is our memorial.  This is our thank-you gift.

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