In many ways, our principles are what define us. They are the content of our beliefs, morals and commitments. They are the basis for our actions. Someone’s principles can tell you a lot about who they are and how they act. And, conversely, someone’s actions can tell you a lot about their principles. More specifically, the choices individuals make reveal the real principles they have, even if they are different from the ones they claim to have. The truth is that we fail to live up to our principles pretty often. So, when we encounter men and women who have taken courageous stands on important principles, and followed that commitment up with real sacrifice, we should recognize and celebrate them. One of the greatest examples of this incredible feat are the countless servicemen and servicewomen who have given their lives in the line of duty for the principles that make us who we are. As we highlight and celebrate their sacrifice this week, we are going to look at a few of the principles these men and women died for, and see if we can’t appreciate them, and those who died for them, in a fuller and more biblically faithful way.
Freedom. Freedom isn’t first and foremost an American ideal. It wasn’t invented by the founders of the United States or first imagined in the Declaration of Independence or U.S. Constitution. Instead, the U.S. was the first nation to implement freedom as the basis of their governance. But freedom is first and foremost a biblical idea. God made Adam and Eve in His own image and gave them freedom and dominion over creation. He brought His people out of slavery in Egypt and gave them their own land and their own nation. And in the New Testament, we learn that through Jesus’ work on the cross, we, who were once slaves to sin, are now free in Christ. The principle of freedom that is codified in our founding documents is really a biblical principle given to us by God. So, when brave men and women in our military give their lives for our freedom and for the freedom of others, we should recognize the weight of their sacrifice and the nobility of their actions. Freedom is a biblical idea, and it’s worth fighting for. And that’s exactly what countless soldiers have done – they have fought, and died, for this freedom to be extended to all.
Defense of Innocent Life. Another principle, or goal, of our military that is borrowed from the foundations of Scripture is the defense of innocent life. Protecting life, especially innocent life, is an ideal that is central to the biblical ethic. This commitment to life is one that was unique among religions of the day, but is foundational to the biblical story. From the very beginning, we learn that everyone was made in God’s image. This endowed every man and woman with dignity and infinite value. It also meant that transgressing, demeaning or sinning against another human in any way was also a transgression against God. This passage in Genesis, and many others that followed, laid the foundation for the preservation of life, especially innocent life. This is one of the many Judeo-Christian values that was codified in our nation’s founding and what the U.S. military exists to accomplish: the defense of innocent people and the preservation of life. And it’s one of the principles that compels us, not just as Americans, but also as Christians, to consider the magnitude of what many have fought and died for. This realization should place us all in a somber posture of gratitude toward the individuals who fought and died for this noble objective.
Sacrifice. Sacrifice is perhaps the most Christian of all principles. It is the most “Christ-ian” thing one can do. Ephesians 5:1 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” If we are going to live our lives in a way that imitates, reflects and models Christ to the world, then there is no better way to do that than through sacrifice. Now, admittedly, every individual’s calling does not look the same, and not everyone is destined to give his life on the battlefield, or even the mission field. For many of us, it will look like making smaller sacrifices day-in and day-out. But for the millions of servicemen that we remember, celebrate and honor this Memorial Day, they have made the ultimate sacrifice. They died for their country, their countrymen, and the ideals they believed in. They demonstrated their commitment to freedom, the defense of innocent life, and many other noble values by giving up their very lives for them.
It’s one thing to say you believe in certain principles, values or morals. It’s another thing to sacrifice everything in defense of them. That’s why we have a Memorial Day. That’s why we remember. When men and women are willing to fight and die for what they believe in… when they leave the comfort of their homes and the safety of domestic life… and when they give up their lives and their freedom so that others can have them, it is something worth remembering. It’s something worth honoring. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This great love is what we are indebted to, and it is why we take the time to stop and remember every individual who died in service of a greater cause. This week, we remember these men and women, we champion this greater cause, and we express our deep gratitude for their ultimate sacrifice.