For many this Memorial Day will mean nothing more than a day off. The pool will open. Summer starts. There will be barbecues and picnics.
But Memorial Day is more. It is a day to remember those that gave their lives for our country—more than 1.3 million of them since the Revolutionary War.
We can learn the purpose of this special day from those that first encouraged its official observance. General John Logan made one of the first Memorial Day proclamations in 1868. It was an order he gave when he served as Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic.
General Logan said, “The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”
Memorial Day is about respect. Military service and sacrifice should command our respect. To serve and sacrifice is not natural. We naturally choose to save our lives, not give them up.
When people give their all, we should notice. God’s Word reminds us to. Romans 5:7 says, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” Thousands have dared to die for freedom in our great country. They died for a good cause.
But there is still a greater cause. The next verse says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ loved you even though you did not deserve his love. He died and rose again for your salvation.
In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation which made Memorial Day an official observance. He said, “Now, Therefore, I, Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 1966, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at eleven o’clock in the morning of that day as a time to unite in such prayer.”
Memorial Day is also about prayer. There will be a lot of parties at 11 a.m. this Memorial Day, but how many prayers will be offered? Our country needs prayer for peace more now than ever.
God commands us to pray “…For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (1 Timothy 2:2-3).
So, before you start your barbecue this Memorial Day, do something to remember those that gave their all for our freedom. And pray to God for our country.
May God give us peace this Memorial Day, and may God bless America.
Stephen Howard is Pastor at Morrow Bible Church. Visit morrowbiblechurch.org