I love the Memorial Day weekend. A long weekend usually infused with the perfect weather. The kickoff to summer.
We’ve given Memorial Day a celebratory feel with our long weekends, outdoor grilling, and sales, sales, sales. But that was not the original intent. It was first called Decoration Day. Immediately after the Civil War, mourners would gather at the graves of the fallen solders and decorate their graves with flowers. It was a truly somber event.
We should take time to remember those who died in service to our country, even if we don’t treat it like the somber occasion our great-grandparents did. We have the freedoms we have because of the thousands of men and women who fought to defend those freedoms—and we should especially remember those who died in the process.
I do not want to take away from the memory of those who died in battle, but I would like to propose another type of Memorial Day. It’s not one everyone would observe, but for those who are followers of Christ, we should not forget those who died in their service for the kingdom of God.
Some soldiers go to war unwillingly or die without ever knowing what hit them. Christian martyrs, however, died willingly for Christ. Many were given the option to recant and live. They died willingly, because they knew there is something far greater that awaits them.
Even in death, a martyr advances the kingdom of God. They bring glory to Christ, because they prove there is something far greater than anything this earthly life offers. They stand in the truth of a relationship with Christ that is not altered by physical suffering and death.
Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
- Paul said, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).
- About the martyrs: “They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12:11).
I don’t know if such martyrdom is headed to America or if it something I will encounter. If it does, I will stand with Christ. I can truly say I do not fear death, but if that moment comes, I would seek strength and boldness from God to face death with grace and love.
Let’s honor those who gave their lives for Christ.