In a few days we honor those who have died while serving in our country’s armed forces. Memorial Day originated as Decoration Day, in memory of those who died in the American Civil War. The name Memorial Day became official in 1967, and remains a reminder that freedom isn’t free.
One of the things people who have served our military on foreign soil often tell me is how important it is to know they are supported at home. Perhaps it goes without saying that men and women, who are risking their lives so we can enjoy ours, deserve our appreciation. However, we are so inoculated by our daily routines I don’t think we realize how the collective words and actions of our country affect those who are serving on the battlefield.
Please don’t misunderstand. The very freedom others fight to defend affords the open expression of ideas, and the opportunity to voice a dissenting opinion. Those making daily sacrifices for us in military operations around the world don’t want us to be like the “blind following the blind” Jesus referenced in the scripture (Matthew 15:14). All they want is to know we love them, and see them as a part of our greater family, upholding the cause of freedom.
In a similar fashion, when a weekly time of church worship concludes and God’s kingdom disperses throughout the community, we need to realize we are still connected. We want to be of one heart and mind, moved by the same mission: to seek and save the lost.
Did you know when we leave worship on Sunday we are headed into a spiritual battlefield? Some go home to family members who are antagonistic toward God. Others enter workplaces that can be ungodly and unethical. The kingdom is made up of life savers, peace officers, merchants, managers, politicians and laborers of all sorts. As believers we are faced with dilemmas that try our faith, test our devotion and define our witness.
We need each other! And we need to know we are thinking of each other as God works through us in the course of our day.
The Hebrews writer penned these words: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). I like the fact the word “habit” is used here. Our habits will eventually impact our values, and our view toward the kingdom. We should also recognize, while the writer of Hebrews is reminding us of the importance of worshipping together, his eye is on the weekly dispersion as much as the regular gathering. The reason we should not give up meeting together is because we need the encouragement of the church to remain faithful to the mission until we gather again.
Of course, encouragement is about more than just a pat on the back. It also involves accountability, and on occasion a harsh rebuke or two. I’ve never met a veteran who wasn’t thankful for an experienced warrior who drove him to succeed. Sometimes we need to be driven, and sometimes we need to be lifted up. But most of all, we need to know people love us and care about the parts of the body of Christ that enter the world every day to serve.
There are many ways we offer kingdom encouragement, and many people are involved in the effort. As a preacher, I can’t encourage everyone, nor should I try. And the church can’t have a program for everything. In truth, it is up to all of us to take our responsibility to one another seriously, and encourage when we have the opportunity and see the need.
I don’t want someone risking his or her life for me on a battlefield to think for a moment I don’t care. I know there will be times when they think otherwise because that’s the way the enemy works, but I want to try to avoid the perception. And I don’t want my brothers or sisters in Christ to think they are alone in their mission. The enemy will also try to discourage them, in spite of my efforts. This means kingdom encouragement is imperfect and almost always incomplete. But like anything upon which eternity hinges, it is necessary. It is also everyone’s job.
How can you encourage a brother or sister today?
Great post, Larry! I enjoyed everything you had to say, especially about the need for corporate worship. So glad to be able to get back to church. This is a weekend to recall those who sacrificed for us. When I was growing up this was a solemn holiday with the parade terminating at the cemetery. Even when my daughter was young, in NY, we did the same with the VFW president, our neighbor, speaking at the cemetery site. Yes, people took off and barbecued etc. and families gathered but now it is as though there is no consciousness of the solemnity of this holiday.