Devotional May 25
Today is Memorial Day. This is one of those holidays that so many of us have learned to celebrate by being outside, with family, grilling, eating, parades, all those good things. We treat it as the unofficial start of the summer. But how often do we really stop and think about the meaning of the holiday. Many people use this day to honor and thank veterans and those currently enlisted in the military. While that is an honorable thing to do, it is not what this holiday was set aside for.
Memorial Day originally began as Decoration Day. In the years following the Civil War, people would take a day in the spring and go to the national cemeteries and decorate the graves of the soldiers who were killed during the Civil War and say prayers for them. The first widely accepted observance of the day is said to have been in Waterloo, New York. Beginning on May 5, 1866, they celebrated an annual, community-wide event where businesses closed and community members decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. Decoration Day officially began on May 30, 1868 as a nationwide day of remembrance where people would decorate and honor the graves of those fallen Civil War soldiers. It wasn’t until 1968, when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed that Memorial Day was moved off of May 30 and became observed on the last Monday of May beginning in 1971. It was also at this point that it was declared a national holiday.
Memorial Day was started to honor those who gave their lives in the Civil War, now it has become a day where we honor all those who have given their lives in the line of duty and the service of our country. We have other holidays, such as Veteran’s Day to honor those who have served. But today, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us to have the freedoms that we enjoy as citizens of the United States.
In the same manner in which we enjoy freedom because there were people who were willing to lay down their lives in the serving of our country, we enjoy spiritual freedom because Jesus was willing to lay down His life to purchase that freedom. What we don’t often realize about the sacrifice all those soldiers made, is that Jesus spoke of it as the ultimate act of love. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 The interesting thing about the sacrifice that all those soldiers throughout the years have made, is that it wasn’t just for their friends. They gave their lives for you and me and all those who may never even know their names. They didn’t just die for their friends, and in so doing, once again imitated the love of Christ. Romans 5 says this “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
So today, remember the reason why we have the privilege to cook out, to enjoy the nice weather, to experience the freedom we have been given. Remember that freedom isn’t free, it came at a cost, and that cost was the lives of so many men and women who gave their lives. And as you remember them, remember also the one who died willingly for your sins so you could be forgiven and free from their hold on your life. Remember that just like our national freedom, our spiritual freedom came at a cost. That cost was the life of God’s only son Jesus. He gave His life on the cross to pay for our sins, to forgive us of our sins. He rose from the grave three days later to conquer sin and conquer death so that He could offer us the free gift of freedom from our sins and eternal life with the Father.
On this Memorial Day, remember that freedom doesn’t come free. Honor those who paid the price for us.