[Originally published in the Monroe News on November 17, 2023]
Last weekend we celebrated Veteran’s Day. It is a very appropriate and honorable holiday for a group of people in our nation who are rightly remembered and celebrated. I give thanks every Veteran’s Day for all who have faithfully served our nation giving of themselves, and in some cases their very lives, to protect and defend our liberty and our nation. This rings true especially in my family as I have many relatives who are veterans, including two grandfathers, and more relatives who are currently serving including a brother.
I hope that our nation will always continue to celebrate Veterans Day as well as other similar holidays like Memorial Day and Armed Forces day. I believe this because I believe honor matters. We celebrate these holidays and the men and women they represent because we should give them honor. They have made sacrifices, some big, some small, for the rest of us who regularly benefit from them. They have put themselves in harm’s way and they have spent much time away from family for the sake of others. This deserves to be honored. Honor matters.
I think this needs to be said especially in an age when it seems all that was once important and respectable is becoming increasingly common. We are a people who are rapidly losing sight of a sense of honor, respect, and importance. We dress more casually. We speak with greater vulgarity. We toss traditions out the window and almost anything else that we “don’t have to” do. It is as if we are collectively buying further into the idea that nothing matters.
Instead, the necessary message for young and old alike is this: how we live matters. Honor matters. Respect matters. Even tradition matters. If we are to continue to live in a civil society then we must together consent that what we do matters. I owe it to my neighbor to abide by rules and to abide by basic decency. They owe the same to me. When everyone simply does what is right in their own eyes, as if nothing matters, then decency and civility fly out the window and eventually society crumbles.
Our founding fathers believed that for us to excel and survive as a nation we need to be a self-governing people. A people who will choose to do what is right without needing a law to tell us or compel us. We need to be a people who at heart love their neighbor and their enemy as well. Our very freedoms depend not just on the veterans who have served to defend them, but they also depend on each of us using that freedom in ways that build up and support one another. Freedom matters.
We need to imitate and emulate those good examples of the past that have been set before us because good matters. Whether these examples be ancient like that of St. Paul, or more recent like abolitionists such as Abraham Lincoln or William Wilberforce, or even examples of people we knew, like grandparents or parents. It matters for us to follow the good witness that they gave. And we do this acknowledging that no human example, save Jesus Christ alone, was perfect. We do know this knowing any human has a dark side full of that which is evil and despicable. But the good still matters.
I spent the last week preaching and teaching in my congregation on 1st Thessalonians 4. In that letter Paul was writing to a people with thanksgiving for the way they had been caring for each other and seeking to live peacefully with neighbors who were mistreating them. He writes with encouragement and he reminds them that how we live does matter. We have a Creator who has instilled in us great purpose and great identity. We have a Creator who “has not called us for impurity, but in holiness (1 Thess. 4:7)” We are people who have been God-taught from the inside out to know what is good and right. Paul reminded the Thessalonians “now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another… (1 Thess 4:9)”
Love matters. Truth matters. Perhaps that’s all that needs to be said. We need to continue to speak the truth in love, and love with truth. It is good for us to continue to honor all those things worthy of being honored including our veterans and all other vocations where men and women faithfully serve and sacrifice. We need to continue to respect and care for all those in authority over us starting with our parents. We need to see that a basic love for neighbor and enemy alike is necessary for us to be a healthy nation. Things matter.
To God be the glory.