Armodoxy for Today: Memorial Day
There is a park that I pass by occasionally on my morning rides. It has a sizable monument dedicated to the veterans of US wars. On the center plaque there are the insignias of the different branches of the military hovering around a lone statement that reads, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
I happen to know that this quote is from Jesus. In the Gospel of John (15), Jesus proclaims this truth in final discourse with his disciples before being betrayed and handed over to trial and crucifixion. But for others who had not read the Bible passage or had no reference to Jesus, the quote seems like a basic truth. And that’s how it is presented to the visitors of the park and this monument. The quote is without reference, neither to Jesus, nor to the Gospel in which it appears.
One of the most beautiful traditions we have in the United States is expressed in the Memorial Day holiday. It is an expression of appreciation for one of the greatest gifts, namely freedom, and the price that has been paid for it.
A value can be ascribed to everything, except to human life. Life is a gift given only once by God and therefore it is priceless. When someone loses their life for a cause, we say they have paid the ultimate price, again, emphasizing its pricelessness.
We have heard that freedom is not free, and interestingly enough, the price of freedom is measured by life, that is, the value of freedom is so great that it can only be measured, or given value, in terms of human life.
Stephen Stills writes,
Do we find the cost of freedom
Buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down
Whether the words of Jesus are referenced to him or not, the words “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” stands as an axiom. As Christians, however, we are consoled in knowing that our Lord, Jesus Christ, said these words as a statement about his offering, his love for his friends, for his children.
Memorial Day gives us a beautiful opportunity and a chance to reflect on something that should be reflected upon regularly, that is, the value of life and those things that are measured by life itself. Are there things that you love more than life itself? Freedom? Family? Love? Country? A close inventory can reveal much. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King has said, “If a man has not found something worth dying for, he is not fit to live.”
Jesus made it clear, that he loved us so much that he laid his life down for us, his friends. In return he asks that we lay our lives down, not to the grave but to surrender to loving one another. It is the greatest testimony to Memorial Day, to respect the price others have paid and understand that in living, and living fully, we honor their sacrifice.
Let us pray, On this Memorial Day, we pray for those who courageously laid down their lives for the cause of freedom. May the examples of their sacrifice inspire in us the selfless love of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Bless the families of our fallen troops, and fill their homes and their lives with Your strength and peace. Amen. (from Common Prayers)