Last Sunday my husband and I prepped for Bible class together. We’d been studying I Corinthians. As we finished, Justin prayed—that we’d speak clearly, that God’s message would be heard, that people would change and grow in the light of God’s truth. But then he shifted gears and began thanking God for the writer of I Corinthians, Paul. He thanked God for a man who would give up so much of his life for the kingdom, a man who loved God’s people with all his might, a man faithful to God’s call. And by the time Justin finished praying, we were both crying.
Yesterday was Memorial Day and as my husband and I pickled radishes and diced pineapple we talked about our heroes, people who gave their lives in service to something honorable and good.
London said her hero was Jesus. London is always playing the trump card too early, making all other answers seem small.
Justin mentioned Martin Luther King. I thought of writers who’d tried to understand the world, writing themselves into dark corners, devoting their lives to understanding pain, suffering, and hopelessness. I’m blessed by their sacrifice.
We thought of veterans, of course, but quickly we started thinking of another sort of veteran, too. We thought of the men and women in our Bible, people who so often sacrificed everything to further the reign of God.
- People like David who didn’t choose what their lives might look like, but walked with trust into the role God asked them to play.
- People like Moses, the most humble man ever to live, who spent every day of his ministry in the company of a difficult to lead, hard to discipline, not particularly grateful nation—all because God asked him to do it.
- People like Abraham who were willing to give up everything, even the things most precious to them, in service to a plan they didn’t quite understand.
- People like Peter and John, Mary, Stephen—people who lived lives much harder than the lives other people lived and (likely) died deaths harder, too. Because they loved Jesus. Because they served God.
- People like the faithful in Hebrews 11, people “of whom the world was not worthy.”
For a moment yesterday, standing in our kitchen, tears welling in the corners of our eyes, my husband and I paused to remember the fallen, our brothers and sisters who gave up so much in service to the growing kingdom of God, the kingdom to which I belong and in which I serve.
As I think about those heroes, warriors of light who’ve gone before me and prepared the way for me and my children, I think two things:
1. We don’t give them enough respect.
On Memorial Day, everyone respects soldiers. Even us pacifists respect soldiers. We speak only of honor and bravery and sacrifice. Sure, we realize soldiers aren’t perfect people. We know they’re actually just normal, messed up humans. But in the face of what seems like such an enormous sacrifice, we skip over that stuff. Cause it’s not what’s most important.
I’ve noticed lately that when we Christians study the Bible, we sometimes approach the people in it with an air of superiority—like kids do when they grow up and look back at their parents, eager to point out the mistakes.
We say Peter, for example, was impetuous. Sometimes we say he was stupid. How could Jesus tell he and the apostles something a dozen times and not have them understand? How thick-headed must a person be? And it’s like we forget that Jesus said the kingdom would be built on Peter’s confession, that three thousand people came to faith during Peter’s first sermon, that Peter walked on water, and that Peter likely died a martyr for the cause of Christ.
I’m hoping at my funeral people aren’t sitting around talking about that time I doubted at the expense of the many more times I chose faith.
I wish we respected the people in the Bible more. They were noble and honorable, people of integrity and courage. Sometimes, as all people do, they made mistakes. But their legacy is one of service to the King.
2. We don’t give ourselves enough respect.
I think the reason we don’t heap respect and honor upon our brothers and sisters who’ve gone before us, the reason we hesitate to make them heroes, is that we don’t see ourselves as heroes. And we want to believe we could be like them.
So, we emphasize their mistakes and play up their “ordinariness.” Because it makes us feel like we’re like them.
We are like them. And they’re heroes.
That means we can be heroes, too.
Our calling as people of God is to live as servants to the mission of God, to give up everything to further the kingdom. We are called to be brave, to persevere in hardship, to be full of joy in trials, to be transformed into the image of Christ. We are light and salt.
We are warriors, servants, rescuers. And we do it all for the glory of God.
We’re nothing, of course, without Christ. But with Christ, we are sons and daughters of the King—noble and worthy of respect. Especially from ourselves.
Let’s live into the lives for which we were created.
Hebrews 12 begins:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
People have gone before us. Brave men and women. And because of them, we are inspired and encouraged to run the race set before us, to lay aside sin, to sacrifice as Christ sacrificed and to live anew in the presence of the throne of God.
Today, on the day after Memorial Day, I ask you to join me in honoring those who are asleep. In their memory, fight on and fight well.