Good Life

clergy column | Reflect on those who paid sacrifice

On Monday, gatherings are planned, coolers will be filled and grills fired up and loaded with hot dogs and hamburgers as we enjoy the Memorial Day holiday, unofficially marking the beginning of summer.

While the birthplace of Memorial Day is disputed, I believe its observance is far more important than where it started. Memorial Day is a time to pause, to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to gain and preserve the freedoms we enjoy — freedoms far too often taken for granted.

Around the world, people suffer greatly under tyrannical regimes for the simplest infractions.

Pastor Saeed Abedini, an Iranian with American citizenship, has been in prison in Iran since July 2012. His arrest came while in Iran to visit family and continue the work of building an orphanage. He has been beaten, denied medical care and locked in solitary confinement. His crime: converting from Islam to Christianity.

He suffers severely at the hands of Iranian officials, while those imprisoned in America guilty of the most heinous crimes are treated with civility, given essential as well as elective medical care and afforded comforts and amenities that many law-abiding Americans cannot afford.

Freedom from tyrannical oppression is what our forefathers fought to provide for us. They fled religious persecution at great risk and sacrifice to gain freedom to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. One hundred fifty years later, 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence to establish that freedom to worship — or to not worship.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned; several who were wealthy lost all they had and died in poverty; nine fought and died in the war; five were captured by the British and tortured to death; two had sons captured; and two others lost sons in the war. The document they signed ends with these words: “We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Our forefathers and many after them have paid the price to establish and maintain this nation to which multitudes still long to immigrate. I fear we often take our freedoms and the price paid to obtain them far too lightly and, by doing so, dishonor those who died to win and maintain these freedoms for us.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15: 13).

The greatest act of love demonstrated, the greatest sacrifice ever made was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, providing the greatest freedom known to man. That sacrifice provided the forgiveness of sins, the privilege to become a child of God, with free and complete access to the very presence of God for those who by faith receive his free gift.

Jesus Christ’s offering of himself for us did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

This Memorial Day, may we pause to remember all who have given so much for our benefit.