Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:6–8)

Memorial Day is an American holiday set aside to remember a special group of people: those who gave their lives.  Veteran’s Day is for remembering all who served, but Memorial Day is extra special, because we honor those who went away to war and didn’t come home. 

Some of these people are barely remembered.  But most of them left big holes in someone’s life.  Young women became single moms because their husbands died in battle.  Mothers lost sons, brothers were lost, and nowadays we are losing also girlfriends, daughters, sisters and mothers.  I remember Christa McAuliffe.  She was a school teacher who was assigned to crew on the Space Shuttle Challenger, where she was killed during the launch.  I remember reporters asking her daughter about her mommy going into space shortly before the launch, and through tears her daughter said, “I wish she wouldn’t go.”  Caroline’s mother died when she was just seven. 


I’m fascinated by the causes of conflicts and wars.  Why do wars start?  Why do people go to war in the first place?  And on top of that, what do others claim was the cause?  Most people these days claim the American Civil War was about slavery, for instance.  But I’ve known thousands of people who are descendants of confederate soldiers, and I can assure you that none of them went off to fight and die to protect the “right” to own slaves for a few rich plantation owners.  When people say the Civil War was about slavery they reveal their ignorance of a much more complex issue. 

So why did those guys go off to fight?  Why does anyone do it? 

The answer is different for different people.  But here’s the strange part: they don’t get to answer the question themselves.  A guy may have joined the Marines in WW2 because his best friend was going, and they were partners who wanted to defeat the enemy.  But what came from their sacrifice isn’t up to them.  The real meaning of their sacrifice isn’t known until we discover what their descendants do with the victory.  What’s the actual outcome?

You see, war – like most things – has unintended consequences.  These consequences, intended or not, are what Jesus called “fruit.”  When we do something, like fight or surrender or love or take or remember or forget – everything we do, has consequences.  And the lives we live reflect back on those who came before us. 

To put it more simply, WE get to answer the question about why they died.  Whether they intended it or not, the America we live in, work in, and vote (or not) in – this IS the America they died to produce. 

WW2 changed the US forever.  We emerged as the dominant world power without equal.  We inherited responsibility for rebuilding Japan and Germany and for fighting against the spread of socialism (masquerading as communism).  Because of this, our technology industry became one of the most amazing things in human history.  As it turns out, the guys that died in WW2 for us actually died to produce, for the very first time in human history – a nation that had machines called “appliances” in kitchens, nuclear advancement, space exploration and electronics of unthinkable power.  With all that in mind, their sacrifices led to GPS satellites and the internet.  The internet is the world’s largest library and shopping mall.  And it’s about 70% porn. 

Why did they die?  So we could shop and read and hear music and look at pictures?  If we are that shallow, then yes.  While that was certainly not their intention, it was definitely the result.

Why did Jesus die?  

We used to sing a song in church that asked and answered this question. 
Here are some excerpts:

Why did my Savior come to earth, and to the humble go…?
Why did he drink the bitter cup of sorrow, pain and woe…?
Why on the cross be lifted up? 
Because he loved me so!

That’s a fact.  Jesus and his Father did what they did because of their love for us, even though we had been living as their enemies! While we were yet sinners,” wrote Paul, “Christ died for us.”  

But then (as I argue here) our response is all-important.  Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were things he did for his reasons, but what about our response?  What were the real consequences of Jesus’ sacrifice?  The song above continues to sing:

Till Jesus comes I’ll sing His praise, and then to glory go…
And reign with Him through endless days…

Do you think God is pleased to have sent His Son to die so that we could sing about it?  Was that a fair deal?  Will you offer your child to me to kill, so that I’ll sing your praises the rest of my life, and then go on to heaven? 

I believe God expects a bit more than our lip service.  I believe Jesus is only a Savior and Lord to those who recognize what’s really be done for us. 

A person holds open a door for me, and I walk past and say “thank you” and move on.  If a rich person gives me an expensive gift, my response should be a little more than a quick “thank you” and me moving on.  But when a poor person gives her most valued treasure – what kind of ingrate would I be just to shrug it off with a quick “Thank you”? 

Memorial Day

Most of God’s holidays were memorials.  Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles were all memorials, or times to remember.  What were they remembering?  Did God lead Israel from Egypt and give them great land so that they could worship other gods?  Did He do it so they would only think of Yahweh once in a while, or so they’d make up rules and force other humans to follow them? 

The results (or fruit or consequences) of God creating humans caused God to regret it:
Then Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that:
Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was
Only evil
All the time.
Yahweh was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
(Genesis 6:5–6)

God also seems to have regretted delivering Israel from Egypt.  He decided to destroy Israel and start over with Moses and his family:
“I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”
(Exodus 32:9–10)

This same attitude continued through Israel’s history and even into the age of Christianity:
You who boast in the law, through your breaking the law, do you dishonor God?  For God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
(Romans 2:23–24)

Can any reasonable person deny that today Christianity is making God look bad? 
Did Jesus die and forgive our sins only to have us disrespect his sacrifice and bring shame to God? 

It seems many people these days think that going to church and being “good” is all that’s ‘required’ of us.  It seems to me that even if those people are right, they’re still responding in an incredibly disrespectful way.  No, we cannot earn heaven, but we all deserve hell. 

God’s son came to earth, served and died.  Is your response simply to say, “Hey, thanks” and then go on with life?  Or maybe you’ll go the extra bit and sing in the choir or pray once in a while, or (*gasp*) maybe you’ll even read the bible occasionally!  Wow.  I’m sure the Father of a crucified son is super impressed.  God’s probably bragging right now to Satan about how much you've given!

Most Christians I know are unwilling to offer a real sacrifice.  Our response to God’s gift of His son is not very expensive.  We don’t want to do our best or be our best; and we certainly don’t want to give our best.  We want to give the minimum necessary; not develop the ability to give as much as possible.  Our time, money, compassion and effort are all reserved for those close to us.  There are not many leftovers for God. 

Memorial Day is a day of remembering someone who died so that you can live a certain way.  The way you live will reflect back on their sacrifice.  Does your life honor those who died? 

Please: don’t let this be true of you as an American, a child of God, or as a disciple of Jesus:
“Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites:
‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me.  Their worship is pointless.’”
(Mark 7:6–7)

Make your memorial vow to follow the example of Paul, whose hope was in God and resurrection (not for this life), who put is faith in scripture (not men), and who did his best (not gave a small percentage) in service to God (not a career or earthly family).  After all, in view of what God gave to us, how can our response be anything less than our best effort?

…“According to the Way (which they call a sect)
I serve the God of our fathers,
Believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and … the Prophets;
Having a hope in God … that there shall certainly be a resurrection….

In view of this,
I do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience before God and before men.
(Acts 24:14–16)

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