BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) – Halloween, with its community outreach events, is now behind us and, if you are like me, you are now focused on the preparations for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the new year. There is an opportunity, however, for the church to give thanks before Thanksgiving every November – Veterans Day.
As a pastor, I always felt a tension around the less-religious holidays. On one hand, I am grateful to live and worship in a free country (even one with flaws). On the other hand, our citizenship is from a higher country and there is nothing that should distract from our corporate worship of Christ.
As you strive to find the appropriate response to Veterans Day at your church, I wanted to offer three reasons why Christians should take time this Veterans Day to intentionally recognize those who have served our country.
First, we should recognize our veterans because we understand that unspoken gratitude is ingratitude.
Paul was a master at showing gratitude. We know that Paul was grateful for the churches that supported him and to whom he ministered because the Holy Spirit inspired him to communicate his gratitude (1 Corinthians 1:4, Philippians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:2). Paul clearly and intentionally patterned gratitude for us by thanking God for those around him and by clearly communicating his gratefulness to those he loved.
We know that genuine love does not keep a record of wrongs, but genuine gratitude does keep a list. It is a list of things we are thankful for that should be used in our prayers and in our expressions of love to those who have blessed us in some way.
I do not know one veteran who enlisted for the praise they would get for their service. However, I do know that many veterans carry physical and emotional scars from their service, and something as simple as a “Thank you” from a truly grateful heart does much to remind that veteran that their sacrifice was worth the cost.
Second, we should recognize our veterans who are Christians because we understand that their service was an act of worship. Scripture never defines worship as something that only happens within the walls of a church on Sunday. In fact, most of our worship happens between Sundays.
Every time we submit to God’s standard and plan for our lives is an act of worship (1 Corinthians 10:31). When we obey God, we are worshipping Him. The Scriptural command to care for the downtrodden and hurting in our world extends farther than food ministries in our communities. Sometimes obedience to that command requires men and women to take up arms to stand firm against violence, abuse and tyranny.
We should celebrate those who worship through daily obedience in their homes, at work, at school, in church and on the battlefield.
Finally, we should recognize our veterans because they give us an opportunity to point our hearts toward Christ and His sacrifice.
Freedom is a precious gift. Our freedom from earthly tyranny and to worship was guaranteed by veterans who served. We see and know this freedom. We also know that earthy freedom is temporary, but eternal freedom from the tyranny of our sin debt was guaranteed by Christ. The imperfect sacrifice of the veteran points us to the perfect sacrifice of Christ.
Countless veterans have weighed the cost and laid their lives on the line to guarantee the temporary freedom we enjoy today. If temporary freedom can motivate men and women to give of themselves so willingly, how much more should we, as Christians, be motivated to dedicate our lives to sharing the hope of eternal freedom in Christ.
To our veterans, I want to say, “Thank you.”
Thank you to those who left home and fought on foreign battlefields for our freedom. Thank you to those who kept bags packed and stayed ready during the Cold War. Thank you to those whose readiness gave us seasons of peace. Thank you to those who quietly work and worship around us, who demonstrated their love for our country while never expecting anything in return.
We cannot repay you, but we do thank God for calling you to serve in the fight for our freedom.
Josh Cook is a church revitalization specialist for the Birmingham Metro Baptist Association. This article was originally published in the Nov. 10 BMBA newsletter.