The Great Sacrifice

To be honest, I have never really been one to think that much about Memorial Day. That is a tough confession to make. I guess you could chalk it up to youthful apathy, or self-absorption. I know that I was supposed to take time to reflect on the wars and sacrifices of many Americans. But, as I was growing up, there weren’t any wars, and I did not really know many veterans.

It was not until this past decade that I began to think about the implications of Memorial Day. I am sure that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have forced all of us to take a step back and be thankful to the brave men and women who have selflessly given up their lives for our freedom.

Both of my grandpas served in the military. One was a veteran of World War II. The other was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War.

Foy Lee Templeton Sr., my mother’s father, served in Pacific during World War II. As a kid I loved listening to the stories that he would tell about his days in the world. He was an MP, so he mostly told me stories about keeping Filipino prisoners while he was in the Philippines. Every Christmas Eve when our family got together, he would start a conversation or two like this: “Do you know what I was doing 50 years ago tonight (depending on how far away from the date we had gotten).” we all knew the answer and would say, “Getting on a boat.” He would then proceed to tell us about how he boarded a boat to head out to the pacific. I’m pretty sure we have had that same conversation every Christmas Eve since he has been gone. Somebody will ask the question, and we will all reminisce about my grandfather’s time in the service.

Parks Alvie Collins, my father’s father, served in Europe during World War II and was in the Korean War. I don’t remember many of his stories, nor do I remember him talking much about his actual war time. He served in two wars and made a career out of the military. One thing that I do remember is that he told me that he lied about his age so that he could enlist earlier. He was eager to serve his country.

I am proud to have had these two great men as grandfathers. Thanks Papaw. Thanks Grandpa.

I have had several family members who have served in the Armed Forces. To them I say thank you.

I have also had several friends who have made great sacrifices by going off to war. To them I saw thank you.

As I reflect on the sacrifice of these brave men and women, there is a stark contrast between their lives and mine. My life has been void of anything remotely close to self-sacrifice. I have never left my family behind to fly or to sail off to a distant land where people do not want me. I have never faced an enemy who hated me or shot at me. I have never had to spend my days looking for IEDs or potential areas of insurgence. The more I think about it, the more I truly understand that I have never been faced with giving up much in my life.

Though I have not had to personally sacrifice, my life has been profoundly affected by the greatest sacrifice of all. I am most thankful and grateful for the sacrifice of one man. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, walked this earth and lived a perfect life. He willingly laid down his life for sinners. This is the greatest sacrifice in history. He died a cruel death on a cruel cross to save people who hated him, to save his enemies. Isaiah the prophet wrote of this great sacrifice hundreds of years before Christ went to the cross. He said:

Who has believed what he has heard from us?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

For he grew up before him like a young plant,

and like a root out of dry ground;

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men;

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away;

and as for his generation, who considered

that he was cut off out of the land of the living,

stricken for the transgression of my people?

And they made his grave with the wicked

and with a rich man in his death,

although he had done no violence,

and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;

he has put him to grief;

when his soul makes an offering for guilt,

he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

make many to be accounted righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53)

As I read and re-read the words of the prophet, I am amazed at the sacrifice that Christ has made. He took upon himself wounds that were meant for me – a death that was mine. Because of his death, I now have life.

If anyone reading this does not know Christ, I encourage you to call upon the name of the Lord, repent, and be saved. Charles Spurgeon said:

The way to be saved is simply to trust in what the Son of man did when He became man, and suffered punishment for all those who trust Him. For all His people, Christ was a substitute. His people are those who trust Him. If you trust Him, He was punished for your sins; and you cannot be punished for them, for God cannot punish sin twice, first in Christ, and then in you. If you trust Jesus, who now liveth at the right hand of God, you are this moment pardoned, and you shall forever be saved.”

I urge you to trust Him today.

On this Memorial Day, I will remember those who have sacrificed for country. I am a citizen of this country, so I will remember those who have given their lives so that there is a place that I can raise my children where they are guaranteed certain inalienable rights.

On this Memorial Day, I will also remember those who have sacrificed for God’s kingdom. I am a citizen of a kingdom that supersedes any allegiance that I have in this world. I stand in the current of a long line of men and women who have gone before, sacrificing their lives so that the news of our king will be heard all around the world.

Finally, I will remember my King Jesus Christ who sacrificed everything so that I may be his child.

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