Memorial Day is much more than remembering those who died in battle. It is a somber day because we are remembering those who sacrificed their lives for us. This makes it an important time to remember why they died.
Abraham Lincoln memorialized the cause of soldiers at Gettysburg with his famous speech. Looking over the battlefield just after July 3, 1863, where 51,000 soldiers were casualties, he said,
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
From the Revolutionary War to the current War on Terror, over 1 million soldiers have died in the course of US wars (PBS). Internationally, it is estimated that 54 million deaths, soldiers and collateral, have occurred this past century. The War on Terror is adding to these numbers every year (PBS).
The questions that must be asked are these: For what cause did these soldiers die? Was it a cause worthwhile? Was it a cause worthy of their sacrifice?
When David determined to fight the giant Goliath (a battle thought by many to be foolish), he asked, “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29). And on this day of memorializing the highest cost that one can give, it is appropriate to ask and demand an answer: What cause makes the deaths of so many justified?
Our cause today is freedom. And most importantly, it is for freedom of religion, the freedom to express our faith without government censorship and interference. It is freedom of religion to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ with impunity, and freedom of religion to persuade others about Jesus Christ so that they too might be saved. It is freedom to believe as God tells us to believe. It is freedom to live by God’s rules and to practice loving our neighbors, both of which are good for the well-being of all people. It is freedom to live without fear of our liberty being taken away from us.
We remember a cause worth remembering and a cause worth dying for. I submit to you that a cause worth dying for is a cause worth living for.
Consider this question: Is your cause for living worth memorializing? We live in a land that claims government of the people, by the people, and for the people, a land where people are free to govern themselves. But when people at large fail to govern themselves, who then will govern them?
William Penn, a founding father of the United States, answered this question, saying, “Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.” Do you see the wisdom in this statement? If so, then you can probably agree that an important way to honor the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms is to govern ourselves so that we keep those freedoms intact. In other words, A nation who will not be ruled by God will be ruled by despots. A nation that will not seek freedom in Christ will not know freedom.
You see, the cause of freedom is much more than freedom for freedom’s sake. It is what we do with freedom that secures it and gives it true value.
Why is freedom so important? The significance of freedom that makes it worth dying for is the freedom to serve Christ, to proclaim salvation, and to save souls from the bondage and condemnation of hell. The battle that we must not fail to memorialize is the battle for eternal souls.
Ultimately, every soldier who has fallen in the name of liberty has fallen in order to preserve the freedom to live for Jesus Christ without fear of government-sanctioned religious persecution. Individual soldiers fight for a variety of personal freedoms expressed in different ways. But the bottom line is that freedoms of all kinds are enjoyed because of religious freedom. And when religious freedom is taken away, there is no real freedom. Why? Because religious freedom is the freedom to obey God rather than men. It is the freedom to follow your conscience as God leads you, without interference from men.
John Adams, the second President of the United States, said,
Statesmen may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.
Religious freedom is a cause worth fighting for. This is a freedom worth sacrificing for because it is a cause that transcends an individual’s life and has eternal consequences. The winning of souls exceeds any and all costs paid here on earth. And so, it is appropriate to memorialize and remember the sacrifices, not commonly thought of, made in the ultimate war of all that began before man was created and continues to this day. It is the mother of all battles. It is a battle literally between universal good and evil. It is a war fought on earth and in heaven, from one end of creation to the other. It is a battle that will end at Armageddon in the twinkling of an eye when Christ destroys his enemies with the brightness of His coming.
Seventy million Christians have been martyred since Jesus’ death (David B. Barrett, Voice of the Martyrs USA). Currently, 80,000 to 100,000 Christians are killed every year (Voice of the Martyrs). This is a warfare in which many have sacrificed their lives without fanfare and who receive very little attention.
One of our engineering collegiates at the University calculated that between 25 million and over 50 million souls die and go to hell every year based on the world-wide death rate in 2001 and on Jesus’ comment that “wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” (Matthew 7:13).
Souls need to hear the Gospel now. There is a desperate need for disciples and missionaries. And with the freedoms we enjoy now, now is the time to proclaim the Gospel loud and far! The only reason Christ has not returned yet and brought an end to this warfare is that He has an infinite desire to allow all who will the opportunity to be saved. Jesus wants everyone to come to Him. He wants you to come to Him. And He will not allow the stubbornly unrepentant and rebellious folks to short-change you of your opportunity to be saved.
Is there a cause? You bet there is. We have been entrusted with an unprecedented freedom in the USA as a country to share the soul-saving Gospel of Jesus, to proclaim it throughout the world. We enjoy a time in history like no other to win souls to Christ without fear of government retribution and persecution. And if you are saved and walking with Christ, you can feel the conviction and urgency of the Spirit of God in your soul.
Religion, specifically that of Jesus Christ, is the root of freedom enjoyed. And thus it is the freedom of the Christian religion that gives freedom real value and makes the sacrifice of life worthwhile. It is the freedom enjoyed by the Christian religion that gives freedom for all. In the words of Christ,
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.John 8:36
The battle for freedom is a battle for religious freedom, which is a battle to save eternal souls. Without remembrance of the cause of freedom and the purpose of freedom, we will languish in our freedom and carelessly allow it to be taken from us. Without remembrance of that which gives freedom significance, we will perish because of ignorance, lethargy, non-commitment, and unconcern. We will be void of vitality and purpose for preserving our freedom. Without a cause worthwhile, there is no inspiration, no enthusiasm, no passion, and no action. Without a cause worthwhile, there is only a dull existence. The significance of our government and cause of freedom will have little value. There will be nothing to get excited about and certainly nothing to fight for. And when our freedom of religion is taken from us, we will suffer and be killed. Yes, it is that drastic. History is our teacher. History teaches that religious oppression will repeat itself.
Nonetheless, we will not stop obeying God. Freedom or no freedom in the governments of men, Christ rules supreme in the hearts of His saints. And regardless of the stumbling blocks Satan puts in front of us, we will obey God, not men.
But how much better it is to proclaim Christ without persecution and without stumbling blocks! How much better it is to openly share the Gospel to reach more people and to make more disciples than not!
How do we memorialize, with honor, those who have died? The decorating of grave stones and the grilling of hamburgers in and of themselves do not honor the martyrs. These are mere tokens of something much more profound. And by themselves, they are empty and vain expressions. The only way to truly honor the cause for which so many have sacrificed is to live in the freedom they died for, to continue the fight for which they died for, to govern ourselves responsibly to secure those freedoms, and to proclaim the Gospel to win souls and make disciples. In other words, the only way to honor the dead is to live for the very thing they died for.
It is not enough to just enjoy the freedoms for ourselves. To honor the fallen soldiers who died for freedom, we must continue the fight to preserve the freedoms we enjoy. Consuming the freedom that others have died for on ourselves and leaving nothing for others to enjoy later is not honorable. It is despicably and dishonorably selfish.
The freedom to proclaim the Gospel is a freedom few have enjoyed in human history. The freedom from government interference in religious practice is a freedom rarely allowed among nations. For this freedom we fight. For this cause we memorialize the fallen. And for this purpose, we live to proclaim to the world freedom in Christ!
How will you honor those who died for your freedom?
- Pray for freedom to live openly for Christ.
- Pray to use your freedom to disciple others.
- Keep the vision for freedom to live for God remembered.
- Volunteer to join the ranks of fellow servants of God engaged in church ministries proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.