Memorial Day: The Importance of a Church Remembering
When a World War II veteran wants to open up, I listen. There are too few of them left. The ones still with us don’t often speak of their experiences. And as a Millennial, I’m far removed from their generation and know little about the world that shaped them. So, I listen to learn. I listen to their memories.
A memorial is established to remind people of something. The Bible has several such memorials. In the Old Testament, the Passover was established as a memorial of God’s deliverance. In the New Testament, the Lord’s Supper was established as a way to remember Christ’s sacrifice. The remembrance serves as a reminder of how to act appropriately today. We look back in remembrance to better understand our actions today.
You can find a lot about thinking forward, creating a future vision, and leading a church into tomorrow—good and necessary thoughts. However, I believe many churches can do better at remembering, not for the sake of wooden traditionalism, but rather for proper alignment of perspective.
Memorial Day is a time to remember. Obviously, a biblical mandate does not exist for Memorial Day like it does for the Lord’s Supper. Christian Americans should not mix God and country in a way that creates a noxious form of religious nationalism. Our soldiers died for everyone’s religious liberty. While some churches are guilty of conflating patriotism and Christianity, it’s just as disturbing when a church skips past Memorial Day without a mention. When Christians and churches reflect on the sacrifices of those who died serving our country, it’s an opportunity to pull from the best of our culture and demonstrate much needed biblical values for today.
Sacrifice. Many churches will make the connection between a soldier’s sacrifice and Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on Memorial Day weekend. It’s almost cliché, but there is truth in it. While churches could be a little more creative in making this connection, the core teaching is important. In our entitlement-driven culture, we give lip-service to sacrifice. In our preference-driven churches, sacrifice means parking in the back lot. Memorial Day reminds us of true sacrifice—a willingness to lay down one’s life.
Honor. Biblically, the concept of honor means to esteem or show great respect. We’re to honor our parents, church leaders, people in authority, and, of course, God. Unfortunately, our culture tends to place honor mainly on those with wealth, celebrity, or political clout. Memorial Day is a time to honor those who deserve it. This day of remembrance is a chance for us to give the next generation a picture of true honor.
Liberty. Christ frees us from sin, and our country gives us the liberty to express this freedom to others. My grandfather, Samuel Solomon Rainer, Sr., served in World War II. He flew D-Day. His plane was called the Hoo Jive. My great uncle was a spy for the OSS. Another great uncle, Charles Spurgeon Keller, Jr., died in battle one week before World War II ended. He was in his late teens or early twenties. I know these stories because my father told them to me. Part of remembering is sharing history with the next generation. Take time today to tell your children or grandchildren about why we remember on Memorial Day. We live in a country where religious liberty exists. Our soldiers need to know our churches are behind them. The next generation needs to know religious liberty is worth our lives. The next generation needs to know freedom comes with a cost.
War is always complex. Views on wars change as decades and centuries pass. Christians should ask, Is war just? It’s not an easy answer, and a conclusion about any specific war is not the purpose of this post. My point is simple: We must be careful what we memorialize. The memories we highlight influence our actions today. Memorial Day is worth remembering, for the causes of sacrifice, honor, and liberty.