As we head into Memorial Day Weekend our thoughts naturally turn to our fallen patriots. Patriotism is the word of the day and it has always been about sacrifice. Just the word brings forth images rows and rows of white crosses standing in military precision for those who gave their lives in battle and service. We remember film clips and heart-wrenching stories of wounded soldiers trying to rebuild their lives after being irreparably scarred physically and emotionally. But for most of us patriotism is something that someone else does for us. We enjoy a vast array of freedoms because of their sacrifice. So we lay wreaths, wave our flags, and may even bow our heads, in thanks. But this year is different.
This year we are called to be patriots too. We are called to make a sacrifice for the good of all – even when it hurts. Just like the soldiers of the past we are called to put the collective good before our individual rights because that is what is best for our country. I dare say that it feels no better to us than it did to anyone of the thousands of men and women who served or does to all those who are serving our military today. Yes, there are those adrenaline-pumping battles that create heroes, purple hearts, and supreme sacrifices. But most of the time serving in the military, being a real patriot, is a series of rather mundane tasks and duties that feel neither glorious nor notable. It has been said that military service during war is great, but “hell” during peacetime. But the “hell” of the day-to-day drudgery of soldiering is no less a sacrifice for a greater good of our country. Perhaps it is even more patriotic as their sacrifice earns no bands, no medals, no cheering crowds, often no acknowledgment at all, just the good feeling of doing one’s part.
We are called to be true patriots this Memorial Day. We are also called to sacrifice for the greater good by giving up our public gatherings, our family cookouts, and our travel. We are called to wear our masks and physically distance. None of these things are exciting, or fun, or will earn us medals, or accolades. We may even be jeered at and mocked. But each one of these sacrificial acts is as patriotic as the actions of our soldiers in uniform today and in years past. We have an opportunity to step up in service rather than stepping out in celebration. If we want to really honor those who have given their lives in service, we will serve what they died for: our country and all the nameless, faceless people in it. We do that by giving up the need to do it “our way” for the good of everyone in our country. As the saying goes… Just because you can doesn’t mean you should – even if it “your right” to do so.
Sacrificial love of and for others is nothing new to us Christians. It is one of Jesus’ most basic commandments, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 Or the famous passage from 1Corinthians 13: “Love is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” No, it’s not just for weddings any more it’s for right now and especially for this Memorial Day Weekend.
I hope that your’s is safe, loving, and sacrificially patriotic for us all.