Memorial Day and the Martyrs

This morning churches all across our nation rightly recognized the value of those men and women who have laid down their lives so that we might live ours freely.  And without taking anything away from the right-ness of our remembrance, something always eats at me each memorial day weekend when in church.  I think between last year and this year I have finally found how to scratch my itch.  The thing that I think we forget, especially as Protestants, is that there are a whole host of people for whom we owe not simply our temporal freedom in this United States but our eternal freedom as well.  Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.  Blandina of Lyons.  Bishop Valentine of Terni.  Saint Basil of Ancyra.  Bishop Proterius of Alexandria.  Saint Boniface of Germany.  Jan Hus.  Hugh Latimer.  These are just a small handful of the famous ones.  This doesn’t include the countless numbers of others whose deaths aren’t inscribed on any memorial wall nor made it into Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.  Think about all the Russian Orthodox priests killed by Stalin, those slaughtered in Uganda under the rule of Idi Amin, and the saints being martyred in North Korea today.  Yet, as the saying goes, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.  The churches that remembered those who died in the service of defending American freedoms find their very existence can be laid at the feet of those who were martyred for the sake of Christ… those who took up their cross and, in imitation of their Lord, laid down their lives.  So this memorial day, let’s not take anything away from our remembrance of our American brothers and sisters who have purchased our freedoms with their blood.  But let us also remember those Christians who laid down their lives so that the eternal freedom purchased by Jesus Christ might be brought to every tribe and tongue and nation.

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