In the USA, tomorrow is Memorial Day. It is a time to remember all the men and women who gave their lives in defense of our nation. Certainly they deserve such honor and inasmuch as the Bible tells us to give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7), we are happy to salute them and their sacrifices. Even as we write this, servicemen and women are in harm’s way under the flag of the USA. We honor their decision to serve but especially think of the families who have lost husbands, wives, sons, daughters or parents in combat.
Let our thoughts expand a bit. Brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering this morning and some will pay the ultimate price for their faith in Jesus Christ. Even in this modern era, there are places of intolerance where devotion to Jesus is dangerous. In Sudan, a pregnant woman refused to recant her faith in Jesus and was ordered to be executed for her beliefs.
In Somalia, a young man returned home after visiting in Kenya where he became a Christian. He was shot and killed because he left Islam.
In Afghanistan, some lawmakers are calling for the execution of former Muslims who have converted to Christianity. Many of the new Christians live in neighboring India where they fled to escape violence. Now, the prospect of execution is raised if they ever return home.
Meanwhile, preachers of the gospel in India are often targets of Hindu radicals who ambush them and beat them as they travel to preaching destinations each Sunday.
These men and women, through their sufferings and struggles, directly strengthen us through their examples. They remind us of the blessing of religious liberties in this country and embarrass us a bit when we consider the ease with which we sometimes ignore our own worship services and assemblies. Their suffering should empower us with renewed strength.
In Acts 7:1ff, Stephen fell into the hands of wicked men who killed him because he spoke for Jesus Christ. As he died, he showed that Christ-like spirit when he prayed for their forgiveness. Saul of Tarsus would continue to persecute the church wherever it was found and would arrest and persecute those who would not recant (Acts 8:1-3; 1 Timothy 1:13). How ironic that this same man, now called Paul, would suffer a similar fate being beaten and imprisoned (Acts 14:5-7, 19-23; Acts 16:16-24; Acts 21:33 ff).
But the actions of Paul and Stephen before him should not be surprising. They are simply following their Lord Jesus.
Christ died for us (Romans 5:6). Notice that the text here says Christ died “for the ungodly.” That would be you and me. In the minds of most, we would not be worth dying for. Think for a moment. For whom would you die? Would you die for your children? For your spouse? Would you possibly die for man on the brink of curing cancer or for a woman about to end war and conflict? But would you exchange your life for that of a serial killer about to be executed in prison? Would you die for a pedophile? Probably not. But Jesus did. Read the context. Read Romans 5:6-11. The power of the death of Jesus is that he wasn’t dying for good people. He was dying for the worst among us. “God showed his love for us in that while we still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It is in his blood that we find redemption from our horrid sins.
Some may be offended at this little article because it “blunts” the impact of Memorial Day. Know this: I will never discount the price paid by soldiers in defense of this country, but also, I will shout from the rooftops the price paid by my Lord for my eternity.
Let us remember Jesus.