Memorial Day is a special day. Since 1868, our country has set aside May 30 to remember the great sacrifice made by men and women who have died while in active military service. Since 1971, in classic American seeking of self, we have chosen to take a three-day weekend by taking a day off from work on the last Monday in May. Oh, the real Memorial Day is still May 30, but we go about our business on the holiday and take a different day off from work. Originally, this holiday was called “Decoration Day.” Even though the official name has been Memorial Day for many years, some still refer to it as Decoration Day. The name came from the tradition of caring for, sprucing up and decorating the graves of the brave men and women who died in my place and yours. However, over the years, many have come to see it as a chance to have family reunions and decorate the graves of all the dead. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact it is commendable, but it is unfortunate and regretful that this practice has taken away from the honoring of men and women who sacrificed their all so that we would not have to. Many, if not most, of our young people have no idea what Memorial Day stands for. I am moved by the greatest of all sacrifices made on our behalf; I hope you are also. May you and I both do a better job of honoring our fallen heroes.
I am also moved by the sacrifices of another group of men and women. I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus was an historical figure who lived and died. I believe that He is exactly who He claimed to be. Why would I believe that? I have faith that’s why. Is it blind faith? No. There is credible evidence for my faith. I have studied the Bible for many years and find it to be absolutely reliable. Also, the eyewitnesses to Jesus life, work, death and resurrection provide me with a tremendous reason to believe. I am amazed at the faithful, steadfast testimony by the first century followers of Jesus. They risked everything; rather, they threw everything away, in order to testify to the authenticity of the claims of Jesus. The Bible gives limited information, but tradition and history tell us much about the lives and deaths of the eyewitnesses to Jesus life and work. If you are interested in details and documentation, I recommend Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs.”
These eyewitnesses lost their property, wealth, standing in the community, family relationships and often their very lives, in order to substantiate the claims of Christ. It seems to me that they must really have been convinced that He was exactly who He said He was, that He did what He claimed to do and that He is coming back for His own. I don’t know about you, but I would not live in poverty, ostracized from my community and family, facing almost certain torture and martyrdom if I was not absolutely, without a shadow of doubt, convinced. I am far too fond of comfort and food and life. I am very grateful that these eyewitnesses sacrificed so much for Jesus and for me. Their testimony strengthens and encourages me.
It is my hope and prayer that during this Memorial Day season, all of us who claim the name of Christ will remember the sacrifices of those early Christians, fallen heroes that they are. As I look to the future, I wonder what you and I will be called upon to sacrifice in order to testify to the authenticity of Christ and His claims. May we be as faithful as those early eyewitnesses. If the Lord tarries, future generations depend on us.
STEVE ELLISON is director of Ouachita Baptist Camp in Arkansas. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.