With tears in her eyes but pride in her face, Abby Beck stood at Pacific View Memorial Park and Mortuary in Newport Beach on Saturday. “It’s an honor being here,” said Beck, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran. “You just really realize how important this is, and how great the luxuries and freedoms that we have are. Being a veteran made me realize how important those things are and how lucky we are to have them.” (Los Angeles Times, accessed May 27, 2013).
On a day like Memorial Day (or Decoration Day as it was originally called) words such as: “honor”, “remember”, “fallen”, “veteran”, and “freedom” take on a more meaningful aspect. It is on this day each year, the last Monday of May, when we American’s honor and remember our very own who have paid the ultimate price and sacrifice for our continued freedoms. It is on this day each year that thousands mourn the loss of loved ones once more. It is on this day each year that thousands of parades take place to honor those who have fallen. It is on this day each year that millions visit cemeteries to place flags and pay their respect to fallen veterans. It is on this day each year that freedom means more than my right to do something, but reminds me of those who have given their lives sacrificially for my benefit.
While not immediately related to anyone who has given their life for the American cause, I know many who are or have dedicated their lives to serving our country and thus, my freedoms. My grandfather served in World War II. My uncle served throughout the Vietnam War. My brother-in-law is currently in the National Guard training for future service. And that does not even include numerous friends and acquaintances who have offered and continue to offer their lives to protect and provide for mine. I want to thank each and everyone of them. I want them to be honored, just like all of those who have, are, or will give their lives for the service of our country and freedoms.
But as a believer in Jesus Christ, I can’t help being reminded of the greatest sacrifice every made, in my place, for my ultimate freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). It is no family member, friend, acquaintance, or even mere mortal who made the ultimate sacrifice for me and for you. The One and Only God of the Universe, the Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1; Colossians 1:15-18), the One who holds it all in His hand and is in sovereign control of all things at all times, gave up His only begotten Son to obtain and offer freedom for me (John 3:16). It is Christ, THE Son of God, who came to earth, born of a virgin, and lived a perfect life that gave the ultimate sacrifice for me. It was He and He alone who “became sin who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). But why? For freedom.
This freedom he offers is not the kind that enables us to do as we please, but the sort of freedom that we ultimately need–freedom from sin (Romans 6). In the Garden (Genesis 3:1-7), through Adam and Eve, all of mankind was plunged into a sin cursed world and an inherited sinful nature (Romans 5:12). Ever since God has been working out His plan to set His creation and men free from that slavery and bondage (Genesis 3:15; Romans 5:15-17). And it is in that plan, and more specifically that person, Jesus Christ, that real, true, lasting, and eternal freedom is found. But it came at a price. Just as our American freedoms have come at the cost of countless lives, our eternal, spiritual freedom came at the greatest cost, the life of God’s precious Son.
So on this Memorial Day, honor the fallen, mourn with their families, thank those currently serving in our armed forces, but remember the greater picture they represent of the ultimate sacrifice given 2,000 years ago on a cross at a place called Calvary. Realize how significant that is and remember the freedom we have because of what He did in our place. Being Americans may cause us to see how important freedom is and how lucky we are, but that freedom and “luck” cannot compare to the freedom offered in Christ that we do not deserve.