This morning I stood before our church, representing all those who could not stand before our church because they had given their lives on behalf of our country. I held in my hands an American flag, perfectly folded into a triangle, like the ones placed into the hands of loved ones who have lost a son or daughter, husband or wife, dad or mom to war. A million individuals have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure we who gathered to worship the Lord could do so without hindrance or fear. That is a really big number and it is easy to get lost in the immensity of it – unless you are one of the people holding that triangular flag.
It is always an incredible and emotional moment to honor those who loved country more than life. I as stood before the congregation I could identify at least seven others who, like myself, had gone to war – but we all came back – so we paused to remember those who did not. And from the mourning arose a great sense of pride as we acknowledged those who gave the “greater love.”
You have got to know that moments like this stir my soul and make me proud to be an American and to have been given the opportunity to serve my country. But it really hit me today that there would be no need for such inspiring proceedings, for such heartfelt remembrances were it not for sin.
Why did soldiers spend hours this week placing hundreds of thousands of flags at gravesites in Arlington Cemetery? Because of sin. Why will there be families putting tear-laced flowers at military tombstones tomorrow? Because of sin. Why will grown men weep as their fingers stroke the names of fallen comrades engraved on a Viet Nam War Memorial? Because of sin. Why were there solemn moments of thankful reflection and prayer in hundreds of churches today? It is all because of sin.
The Bible explains it simply: Sin causes trouble and results in death.
It starts as small trouble. Some greed here, some selfishness there. You hurt me so I hurt you back. I see it, I want it, I think I deserve it so I take it – even if I have to fight you to get it. And it grows from marriages, to families, to cultures, to countries until we are killing each other at a rate that rapidly fills cemeteries with rows of white crosses.
So my flag is waving in the breeze and I will pause often tomorrow to recall the names of my high school friends who did not come back from war – and the thousands I never knew. But I am also going to spend some time reflecting on my own life and being accountable for my own sin – because Memorial Day only exists because of sin.
Thank you, Jesus, for dying a death you did not deserve, in a war you did not start so that I might have eternal life.