As a veteran, I pause each Memorial Day to consider the many who have given their lives in service to their country. I have witnessed firsthand their dedication and commitment to, and their love for our country. My dad was a glider pilot during WWII and participated in many missions over France and Germany. He rarely talked about the war other than to tell me it was not pleasant, but he never doubted its necessity. The only story he ever told me about his time in the U.S. Army was how his best friend died as he took his glider through power lines to clear the way for my dad to land his glider behind enemy lines on D-Day. It’s a story about love and self-sacrifice.
And then there was my encounter with young Marines when I was sent on a 10-day training exercise in San Antonio, Texas as an OBGYN intern at Bethesda Naval Hospital. I had the privilege of going on night maneuvers as well as combat training with them as part of the medical team. These men and women were totally committed to one another in service to their country. Each one of them was ready to die for each other in combat, if necessary. I will never forget the look in their eyes and the love and respect they had for one another. Before that day, I had never met anyone who was consciously ready to die for me and willing to put themselves in deadly situations for me.
What I have learned about the men and women we honor on Memorial Day is that they gave their lives because of the love they have for the person next to them in the heat of the battle. Yes, there is no doubt they love their country. But their country is embodied in that person standing next to them. And they will fight, protect, and battle for the life of that person, even if it means giving up their own life. At the end of the day, even war as we know it today is personal. It is about loving the person next to you as you fight for the freedom of all. Don’t get me wrong, I abhor war and have mixed feelings about some of the wars our country has chosen to fight. And yet I know there is evil in the world that at times requires the insanity of war. I find it amazing that in the midst of the insanity of war is the most sane motivation in the world – love.
And so it is in our personal lives. We are in a battle between good and evil every day of our lives. Some scientists estimate the average person makes 10,000 choices a day. Let’s just say 10% of those choices have moral implications. That’s 1,000 moral choices every day that have moral implications. That is 1,000 choices that love becomes the primary motivator. And the issue becomes the object of our love. Do we love others, or are we only focused on ourselves?
Paul describes life as a battle. In Ephesians 6 he tells us to put on God’s armor for this battle of life. And then he says in 1 Timothy 6:12, Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.
Jesus came to this earth and gave His life for each one of us because He loves us. Through His death, we have eternal life. Jesus fought the good fight of “the faith” which is to love God and others. He battled satan in the Garden of Gethsemane and won by choosing love of others over love of self! He was crushed by your sin and mine as He bore every sin of humanity on the cross that day. He won the war on Calvary! But the battles rage on as the enemy has not yet surrendered. We are trapped behind enemy lines. And just as my dad trusted his buddies would fought the good fight to rescue him, so Paul encourages us to fight the “good fight” today. It’s a fight to keep our focus on Jesus. It’s a fight to allow love to motivate everything we do. It’s a fight for the true faith that is based on love, not self.
On this Memorial Day as we honor the men and women who have loved others to the point of death, let us remember the command from Jesus for us to love God and one another as we apply the admonition of Paul in our lives to fight the “good fight.”