Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868 as a day to honor the soldiers who died during the American Civil War. Today we honor all War veterans, men and women who have given their lives for our country.
Pastor Al Rogness stated, “It is important that we remember that those who died in battle did not die in order that we might live. Just to live is not enough. They died that we might be free. In all candor, and with utter shame, we must confess that for millions of Americans freedom means simply the opportunity to do what we please. That sort of freedom is not worth one life. Our heroic dead died in order that we might live and freely do what we ought to do.”
Freedom is not easily won. There is always a cost.
When Paul writes in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free,” he is not saying that we are free in Christ to live and do as we please, but that in Christ we are set free from the bondage of sin, the power of death, and the tyranny of the devil. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
The truth is we are sinners who left to ourselves remain enslaved to sin and there is only One who can free us. This freedom did not come without a cost. The cross is a reminder of the price that was paid. On Memorial Day we are reminded that a price was paid for the freedom of our country.
Our Founding Fathers chose to use the word “liberty” which carried the implication of responsibility and duty. As President John Adams said in 1798, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
The implication here is that it is religious people who possess the inherent moral character and duty to uphold the Constitution.
French historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “In America, it is religion which leads to enlightenment and the observance of divine laws which leads men to liberty.”
The great irony is that in this current pandemic religious people are being told that their liberty to assemble in worship is not essential. The pilgrims left England and came to America because they believed this liberty was essential. When our Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment to the Constitution they believed the “free exercise of religion” and the right to “peacefully assemble” was essential.
Those who follow Christ certainly adhere to the sanctity of life. Reformist John Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion: “Thus if the Lord has committed to us the protection of our life, our duty is to protect it; if he offers helps, to use them; if he forewarns us of dangers, not to plunge headlong; if he makes remedies available, not to neglect them.” We are necessarily concerned about public health and safety, but this does not entail that we lay aside our essential liberty for which wars were fought and lives were sacrificed. John Adams wrote in 1775, “Liberty once lost is lost forever. When the people once surrender their share in the Legislature, and their right of defending the limitations upon the Government, and of resisting every encroachment upon them, they can never regain it.”
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation, freeing us from the power of sin, death and the devil. Worshipping our God, who created, redeemed and sanctified us is essential. Honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this “One Nation under God” is essential. If we do not hold these things to be essential, their sacrifice becomes superfluous and our liberty is lost.