Not all will spend this Memorial Day weekend remembering the sacrifices made by others, but those who are alive today might not be so were it not for sacrifices made on their behalf. Recognition and gratitude are important, but they matter less than the actual acts of selflessness made on behalf of others. A selfless act is not motivated by gratitude or glory; it occurs when people value the lives of others as much or more than themselves. Selfless acts are acts of love — perhaps the greatest acts of love that humanity can achieve.
It took me most of my adulthood to realize that “life” is not meant to be oriented towards what we can receive from it, but rather what we can contribute to it – in other words, what we can contribute to the world and the lives of others with whom our paths cross. I believe we are each given special strengths, talents, and resources — and cross each other’s paths at certain times — for a reason: A God-orchestrated purpose intended to benefit not just ourselves, but other people and the natural world around us. If we remove ourselves from the rhythm of sin and noise of ambition, I believe we can hear the heartbeat of our oneness. Through prayer and the Bible, I believe we can connect with the will of God. Sometimes God asks us to contribute physically or emotionally, sometimes spiritually. Always God desires us to love one another and to act out of compassion and selflessness.
Selflessness is not only a part of any life as God wills it, it is a component of our spiritual growth and well-being. Sacrifice can be as discreet as a child sharing a toy or as dramatic as a soldier laying down his or her life for another. The examples of selfless acts are as varied as the heavenly bodies in the universe. Some are recognized as such by people, some never are. Yet all selfless acts are known to God.
On Memorial Day, the United States specifically remembers the lives sacrificed by military men and women in service to our country. As a nation, the United States honors their memory in the form of tributes to their sacrifice. As a nation that benefitted from their acts of service and love, Americans remember the sacrifices of its sons and daughters with gratitude and reverence.
And yet, Memorial Day activities sometimes overshadow the most important sacrifice ever made on behalf of humanity. Over two thousand years ago, another Son also made the ultimate sacrifice in service to people everywhere, laying down His life on earth so that all who believe in Him would have eternal life.
It is not through our memories that fallen soldiers will forever live on, nor through our monuments, stories of heroism, histories, or military traditions. It’s through God’s grace. Memories can fade, recognition may fall short, and the gratitude we now feel may not survive the ravages of sin and time. However, death need not permanently separate us.
“Jesus told her, ‘I am the one who raises the dead and gives them life again. Anyone who believes in me, even though he dies like anyone else, shall live again. He is given eternal life for believing in me and shall never perish…”. (John 11:25-26)
On this Memorial Day, May 28, it’s good to remember the sacrifices made for us by others. It’s appropriate to honor and respect those who’ve sacrificed for us and to not take their sacrifices for granted. Most Americans also will pray for peace and for the end to war and suffering in countries everywhere.
And although we will grieve for our fallen soldiers, we can be comforted by the knowledge those who sacrificed their lives for others while believing in Christ do live on. They may no longer be with us, but Christ promises us that they did not perish.
Because of God’s mercy and Christ’s sacrifice for us, believers who are no longer with us have found their way Home.
Photo by Karel Miragaya