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No Greater Love

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INTRO: When I think of Memorial Day, honestly, I think of a long weekend with a chance to fit in some fishing, maybe the first real fishing of the season.
· I think of family get-togethers on Spring Creek, where Mom and Dad maintain a place just for such things.
· I think of cook-outs, sunburns and the official launching of the Summer Season.
Do you realize that you have enjoyed all of your special moments in life with your kids, your family, and your friends precisely because men and women, gave their lives in war.
· We get to have all of the fun as a result of their dying for us.
· How then, should we respond to that?
Galatians 5:13 NIV
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
· Paul began that chapter by saying... “1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
· Paul is reminding the Galatian church that when someone lays down their life for you it is for a purpose, and that purpose should be recognized and respected.
We all know, from preaching and teaching that goes on in the church that Christ laid His life down for us.
· The Bible says...
John 15:13 NIV
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
· To take it a step further, God gave His Son for us.
What I am getting at is the awesome thought that there are still people in the world that willingly go into harm’s way so that we can have a chance at a better life!
· There are parents who stand proud as they watch their sons and daughters enter a life of military service to their country even knowing that there is a possibility that they would have to make the ultimate sacrifice, their very life.
· Why? So that the rest of their countrymen can live free!
When I start to think that these people still exist I have hope; a hope that was instilled in us by our Creator.
· This hope tells me that the concept of giving away our lives for something greater than us permeates the human spirit.
· As much as God put within us the innate ability to distinguish right and wrong, the conscience, He also instilled in us the incredible concept of self-sacrifice.
· I’m not sure we grasp how amazing this can be.
o During his reign, King Frederick William III of Prussia found himself in trouble.
o Wars had been costly, and in trying to build the nation, he was seriously short of finances.
o He couldn't disappoint his people, and to capitulate to the enemy was unthinkable.
o After careful reflection, he decided to ask the women of Prussia to bring their jewelry of gold and silver to be melted down for their country.
o For each ornament received, he determined to exchange a decoration of bronze or iron as a symbol of his gratitude.
o Each decoration would be inscribed, "I gave gold for iron, 18l3."
o The response was overwhelming.
o Even more important, these women prized their gifts from the king more highly than their former jewelry.
o The reason, of course, is clear.
o The decorations were proof that they had sacrificed for their king.
o Indeed, it became unfashionable to wear jewelry, and thus was established the Order of the Iron Cross.
o Members wore no ornaments except a cross of iron for all to see.
o When Christians come to their King, they too exchange the flourishes of their former life for a cross. - Lynn Jost.
o And, in that way we learn of self-sacrifice.
· And we continue to be taught by those who exchange their lives for our freedoms.
Because God loved us first, and made the sacrifice first, we have the capacity to follow suit if the time should call for it.
· That, to me is amazing!
· How could someone lay down their life for someone else?
o Because God taught us how.
· How could someone give up all of the comforts and freedoms of home to go to a place where they are uncomfortable and restricted?
o Because God taught us how.
· Why does a Father or Mother know, deep down, that if it should come to it, they would willingly die to give their children a chance at life?
o God has shown us the way.
Today we honor the fallen soldier in wars past, and present:
That number, in all wars combined, is approaching 1.5 million lives.
o 1.5 million lives!
· Let that sink in for a moment.
· 1.5 million lives so that we can be free!
o This weekend we can cook out...
o …get sunburned…
o …hang out with family…
o ...or just goof off in any number of ways.
o Why? Because 1.5 million lives were laid down so that we can do so!
§ Husbands and wives
§ Brothers and sisters
§ Sons and daughters
So many lives…and I hope that one day we can figure out a way so that the list of the number of dead in war ends!
As a Christian, I am appalled by war.
· I have to be!
· Jesus preached to me from the Mt. of Olives and He said, in...
Matthew 5:38–48 NIV
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
· That last verse…the word in Greek that was translated as perfect is talking about maturity.
· Grow up and be mature in your dealing with others.
· We have a gospel to present that cannot be presented at the end of a sword or at gunpoint.
o He’s taught us something better
· Grow up and don’t react to violence with violence.
· You are called to be different than that.
· Reacting to violence with violence is grade-school-playground-type behavior, and that is anything but perfect in the context of how we react to enemies.
But, even in the Christian realm we have fallen for the idea of redemptive violence.
· If we beat our enemy down violently enough then he will see our way is better.
· Does that sound like Christ-likeness?
I’m not talking about the world.
· That’s different.
· YOU are different!
· The Kingdom of the World operates differently than the Kingdom of God!
· And what I am saying this morning is let us finally grow up in Christ, and see the more excellent way.
I will always remember a video I stumbled on one time, an Andy Rooney commentary on Memorial Day.
o You gotta love him.
o I don’t agree with everything he says, but I love the way he says just about everything, with the voice of a wise uncle, who has a good sense of humor.
· So I found this video and was enjoying Andy’s take on things until he said, “We use the phrase ‘give theirs lives’, but they didn’t give their lives, their lives were taken from them.”
· And that just ruined it for me.
· Then Andy says, “There’s more bravery at war than in peace, but it seems wrong that we have so often saved this virtue to use for our least noble activity, war. The goal of war is to cause death to other people.”
· Then he said, “I wish we could dedicate Memorial Day, not to the memory of those who have died at war, but to the idea of saving the lives of the young people who are going to die in the future. If we don’t find some new way, some new religion maybe… That would be a memorial day worth celebrating.” (emphasis mine)
o “some new religion” is what really got me.
o At first I was mad…a new religion.
o There is only one true religion!
· And, then I realized, that one true religion does not manifest in people the way God intends for it to.
o Too often we interpret love your enemy as do it so long as it’s convenient, then blow ‘em all up and let God sort ‘em out!
o The cross gets wrapped in a flag and then fashioned into a sword and used to kill our enemy.
o And that is such a perversion of what it means to be a Christ-follower.
I’m not going to stand here today and say I have the answers,
· …except to say that I hope we find a way someday to end it.
· Because as I look to the future, and I think that if the pattern of war continues, my children will eventually be old enough to go and fight and possibly lose their lives.
· Freedom is worth fighting for, make no mistake.
· But, when will we acknowledge and implement the message of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount?
o …turn the other cheek…
o …return hatred with compassion…
o …love our enemy…
Today we honor those who have fallen to give us the liberty to pursue answers to questions like “How and when will it end?”
· So let’s honor them by remembering them and what they did.
· Let’s thank God for the capacity within man to give his very life for freedom, just as God taught us.
· But, let us not fail to hope…
o …that it can end…
o …that our children will not be the honorees in a future Memorial Day celebration…
§ That’s something I never want to see.
o …that the “new religion” Andy Rooney said we needed would turn out to be Christians who finally start acting like we truly believe the words of Christ, and then live them.
Soren Kierkagaard, the great Danish philosopher, theologian and psychologist wrote, in a work titled "And I Looked Around and Nobody was Laughing."
· I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, "If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me."
As we remember those who have fallen, let us not forget the one who fell to teach us a better way.
· To understand how man can give his life for others we must understand why Christ gave His life for us, to show us something better.
I only pray that that would one day manifest as a world that resists war with all she has.
· So that maybe Memorial Day, the day we celebrate those who have lost their lives in war so that we could be free, would one day have a final number.
· But, next year’s Memorial Day will represent more lives lost until, and unless that happens.
· I don’t want my children to be candidates for such memorials.
“Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends.”
· That true.
· We honor those, sincerely so.
· They have given us the freedom to worship here today.
· I’m convinced God wants us to realize they have given us, also, the freedom to figure out a better way.
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