The last Monday of May is set aside to remember those who answered the call of duty and laid down their lives in a service toward their fellow citizens.
Originally known as Decorations Day, mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.
The federal government, under President Lyndon B. Johnson, declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo–which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866–because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
“By the late 19th century, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day, and after World War I, observers began to honor the dead of all of America’s wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May” (www.history.com).
A time for reflection
War is a sad part of human history. It validates the Biblical narrative about the universal sinfulness of mankind. The inability of humans to relate peacefully with one another is a problem far deeper than any government could solve. Yet authorities must fulfill their God-given calling to punish evil and commend what is good (I Peter 2:13-14).
“Defenders of the Just War tradition regret that they live in a world where they have to kill human beings in order to restrain evil; that is to say, they regret the Fall. But they find it to be even more regretful for Christians to stand idly by while people are being abused and killed unjustly” (Darrel Cole, When God says war is right).
Christians teach the virtue of sacrifice for others as a primary display of Christlikeness (Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:3-5). Let us remember those who gave that ultimate sacrifice of their lives for others.
The order to go to war is one of the most difficult assignments a person can be given. Yet, “where an enemy is perpetuating its horrible holocaust, is it not an act of love that intervenes, even militarily, to prevent that holocaust if a nation has the power to do so? And is not restraint in such cases a display, not of loving pacifism, but of lack of love— of the unwillingness to sacrifice anything for the sake of others?” (D. A. Carson, Love in Hard Places).
Sometimes war is the God ordained function of human government for defending against violent aggression and protecting the innocent.
“Indeed, such a war may be a Godlike act, since God himself restrains evil out of love for his creatures. This is not to say that we fallen human beings can manage to conduct just war perfectly, without sin, the way God conducts himself without sin; it is to say that failure to do the good that is in our power to do may reflect not only a want of courage, but a lack of love.” (D.A. Carson, Love in Hard Places) (see: Proverbs 3:27).
Whether we like it or not, the world has become a global community. Advanced capabilities in warfare like long-range missiles and nuclear power have required global concerns. The United States of America is the most powerful nation in the world and with that power comes responsibility. Generally, we have been a very kind and generous nation (see: Proverbs 3:27). Those who resent the USA should consider the history of the conduct between nations. The USA has been one of the most generous nations in human history.
There is no greater display of this generosity than to give of our sons and our daughters. Let us pause to remember with deepest gratitude and honor those fallen and wounded in battle! Let us pray for those currently serving in the Armed Services. Let us also especially pray for our leaders to exercise caution and wisdom before committing to future conflicts. Finally, let us give thanks to the One who gave His life for us and our sins.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” (I Timothy 2:1-6)
with gratitude and prayer,