Remembering Those Who Have Tread Before Us – Matt Miller

It is Memorial Day weekend in this country. Often, there is confusion among our youth surrounding this day, as it seems to have taken on different meanings and the reasons for its observance have been diminished over the years. The observance of this weekend was originally called Decoration Day and was established following the American Civil War, as a day when veterans would decorate the graves of their deceased comrades. This great conflict in our country had members of families even divided and fighting on opposite sides of the battlefield. Many pioneer Christian preachers took the stand that Christians should avoid serving in the militaries at the time of the Civil War.

While Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our nation’s freedom, it also provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the spiritual legacy of those who have gone before us in faith. The Bible speaks of a “cloud of witnesses”(Heb 12:1)—those faithful individuals who have run the race before us and whose lives testify to the enduring power of faith. Among the Christians here at Elm Street, there have been a number of individuals who were responsible for starting the work in the Lord here.  Men and women who taught their children and younger Christians those values and traditions which we labor to apply and practice in our lives, and in our worship. People who instilled within us the need to look to God’s Word and follow only it.  People who taught that God’s Word and truth are always superior to traditions of men.  People who lived in a time when not only they, but the world around them conducted itself where a man’s word was his bond. I suppose that we could very easily romanticize a time gone by as we remember the legacy of our forebears.  We often times do that to the 1st Century church don’t we? 

The world around us certainly does.  If you visit with others about the church and what it should be and how people should conduct themselves in their Christian relationships within the church, very quickly, those people around us will be quick to point out any hypocrisy.  They will be quick to express a desire for a romanticized church, one that people could not be involved in because they have heard just enough to know what the church is supposed to be, while they ignore that for all the things written in the “letters” of the Apostles, most of it was to correct problems that existed across the various local works of Christ. 

Certainly, we are not perfect, and although we strive to follow everything by command, example or necessary inference as it is laid out in the New Testament, there is always room for improvement and growth for each member of this local body of Christ.

The beautiful thing about the Bible is that while it was written to a different age of men, it still applies and guides and provides all that men need even in this present age. The words of the Hebrew writer still rings true for us today.  [Heb 4:12 NKJV] 12 For the word of God [is] living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. On this Memorial Day weekend, remember the loved one’s of our faith who are asleep in Jesus.  Look forward to the day of rejoining them, and more importantly joining the Lord at His return for that eternal day. Stand fast in your faith, and be encouraged by Paul’s words of truth in the first letter to the Thessalonians: [1Th 4:13-18 NKJV] 13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [and] remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

These words do not always comfort, because we know those who have passed from this life had no regard for their Creator. Some become forlorn at the thought, but we would do well to remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31).  Those in the suffering of the Hadean realm clearly would want you to know that the only thing that matters in this life is to serve God and keep His commandments (Eccl 12:13).  No doubt, they would conclude that they would want you to know Jesus Christ and to be saved by Him. Just as Peter declared in [Act 4:12 NKJV] 12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The facts are that we must prioritize serving God in this life.  We must make Him more important than every relationship that we might have.  Certainly, as life progresses, the older that we get, the more real the certainty of life’s end becomes.  We observe others who pass on from here and we grieve and mourn for our losses.  Let us put those griefs in their proper place with the contrasts found in the story of Lazarus.  As we remember those who have given their lives for our nation’s freedom, let us also be inspired by the “cloud of witnesses” who have faithfully run their race. Their legacy encourages us to persevere in our faith, laying aside every weight and sin, and looking unto Jesus, the ultimate example of sacrifice and endurance. This Memorial Day, let us honor both our national heroes and our spiritual forebears, recognizing the profound legacy of faith and freedom that we have inherited.  Let us search the scriptures and live our lives in the way that God would have, for anyone who has passed from this life and was not right with God, whatever their relationship with you, would desire that you know the truth and come to obey Jesus, the King.