How would you describe Memorial Day? Somber? Contemplative? Celebratory? All three? Days like Memorial Day are important days where we take time to remember the huge sacrifices others have made for us. We think about what they and their families have given up for us. And we gratefully enjoy the freedoms and privileges we have because they were willing to give up their lives for our benefit.
Honoring the slain isn’t something we need to force people to do. We teach our children what today is all about and what it means when people have made the ultimate sacrifice. But once they realize what we’re remembering—once they stop to contemplate how many people have given their lives so we can be free, we don’t need to force appreciation. The natural response is to honor the slain. I join you today in remembering them and thanking God for them and their families.
I think days like Memorial Day illustrate something about heaven and Christianity too. Skeptics often scoff at the message of the Bible by saying, “What kind of a God demands our worship and needs us to praise him for eternity in heaven?” The idea is that God must force us to honor him, and who wants to be forced to give someone honor?
Honor isn’t something that needs to be forced when we’re honoring someone slain for us. Instead of forcing us to praise him, God gave us himself. He offered himself as the spotless Lamb, making the ultimate sacrifice in place of the world. He laid down his life as he was executed on a cross, spilling his blood on the battlefield. He fought our war and died in our place. He was slain so we can live in freedom from guilt and the threat of punishment for all our moral failures. He was slain so we can live with the privilege of being his holy children forever. He was slain so we can live, even though we die.
Praising God doesn’t need to be forced. Praising him comes from seeing the sacrifice he made on our behalf. It’s the greatest sacrifice of all, and it’s one that opens the gates of heaven to us.
In heaven the honor and praise will come naturally. On the throne is a Lamb who looks as if he’s been slain, welcoming us to live with him in a place where there’s no more sickness, sorrow, pain, or death. When we see him in person, what will that day be like? Somber? Contemplative? Celebratory? All three? I think so.
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12).