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Memorial Day in a maddening world

Pixabay/Visual Memories by J

Many of us are feeling untethered right now. We’re being whiplashed from one crisis to another. Horrific — gut wrenching — gun violence, ongoing war in Ukraine, inflation, looming recession, and new reports of clergy sexual abuse coverup in America’s largest protestant denomination. It’s maddening, and there’s no shortage of experts who are rushing to provide solutions for these complex global and national problems. Often, their voices simply add to our confusion and fuel our anxiety and divisions.

Memorial Day may hold the key to the healing that we desire and desperately need.

For many Americans, Memorial Day is about mattress sales, new car deals, and cookouts. However, what I see is true courage and ultimate sacrifice. Memorial Day is a special day, a sacred day, that is set aside to remember the courage and sacrifice of the men and women who’ve given their lives for our freedom. Men and women who inspire freedom all over the world. Their heroism not only allows us to take a day off from work but is a model of how we must face this present cultural moment. Those who’ve given their lives for our freedom set a clear example of how we must relate to fellow human beings.

Since 1775, over a million people in the United States have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. This has created new opportunities for the flourishing of millions more. Including my Ukrainian family. Not long after the fall of the Soviet Union, my family decided to immigrate to the United States because of those opportunities. We wanted to experience the “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that was missing in the Soviet Union. Now, as an American, I deeply cherish the sacrifice of those who secured my freedom. 

As a Ukrainian-born American, the past few months leave me inevitably thinking about the courage of those who are living in Ukraine. In the last 90 days, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers have laid down their lives in defense of freedom. They died fighting a tyrannical government that is threatening to steal a basic, God-given, human right. Their fortitude is not in vain and is an inspiration to the watching world.

What if more of us followed their example? The example of those we’ve lost in the United States and those currently fighting, and dying, abroad. What if each one of us is committed to facing the challenges around us with selfless courage?

That’s the type of life that Jesus Christ modeled and taught. Jesus said that he himself did not come to earth to be served, but to serve and to give his life for others (Luke 22:24-27). This often goes against our natural inclination for self-preservation and self-exaltation.

Life, as God intended for it to be, is not simply about our personal wellbeing but the flourishing of all humanity.

The men and women who’ve courageously given their lives on the battlefield understood this. They died so that we would have an opportunity to flourish. Ukrainian soldiers are dying so that Ukrainians, and all lovers of democracy, can flourish.

Courage and sacrifice will take different forms in our daily lives. It may look like a kind word, a listening ear, or a helping hand. It will require building bridges across ethnic, social, and political divides. Without it, we will be lost. With it, our neighborhoods and our nation can flourish for generations to come.

As more of us actively follow the example of those who’ve given themselves for us, we will be better equipped to face the ongoing challenges that we encounter.

Andrew Moroz is a Ukrainian-born pastor in Lynchburg, Virginia.

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