“Freedom isn’t free.”
The phrase has been running through my brain in these days leading up to Memorial Day.
I remember the first time someone thanked me (me!) for the sacrifices I’d made for freedom.
Me? Sacrifice for freedom?
Of course, said they. You’ve given your brothers to the cause of freedom.
Except that I haven’t really. Not much.
Both my brothers (and my sister-in-law) are proud living Marines. The price we’ve paid is small.
All three of my sibling Marines have all their body parts. The price we’ve paid is small.
Yes, their choice to volunteer in the USMC has meant that I missed my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding. It has meant that John and Kaytee will be stationed far from me. It has meant some discomfort to me. But it is a very small price.
Don’t thank me. I have hardly paid.
John, Kaytee, and Tim have paid more. They have given up a modicum of their own freedom, have submitted themselves to be at the beck and call of the USMC. They do not choose where they will go or what they will be. They do not choose how many push-ups they will do or how fast they will run. The USMC says and they must do.
Even so, their sacrifices pale in the light of many others who have gone before.
Veterans of past wars have come home scarred mentally and physically. They fought, some willingly, some unwillingly for a cause some believed in and others did not. Sometimes they won and sometimes they lost. Sometimes the world was freer for their contributions, sometimes it was not. Yet they fought, they sacrificed to obtain or maintain freedom for others.
Men and women have fought and died for freedom, leaving behind their blood, their bodies, their brave deeds. They fought for a freedom they would not enjoy-freedom to live in peace in the United States, in Europe, in the Middle East. They fought against regimes that did not topple in their lifetimes, lifetimes cut short by war. They never saw the end of the central powers, of Nazi Germany, of Soviet Communism.
They paid everything they had.
Yet even their sacrifice pales in light of a great sacrifice.
Freedom isn’t free. Jesus paid a high price for it.
A soldier subjects himself to humiliation by drill instructors, by foreign enemies, by insensitive and misunderstanding brutes at home. Christ subjected himself to humiliation by becoming a part of His creation. He subjected Himself to the humiliation of being mocked by the very ones He had given life, the ones whose life He currently sustained.
A soldier is conscripted or volunteers, knowing that death is possible. Jesus volunteered, knowing that death was inevitable, necessary.
A soldier may bear the wrath of a peeved higher officer, of an angry enemy combatant, of a rabid anti-war activist. Christ bore the wrath of His own righteous Father.
Freedom isn’t free.
Jesus paid for it. He paid a price we could never pay.
I wonder, as these thoughts run through my head, if I’m not cheapening the sacrifice of our soldiers, not reducing the impact of our fallen veterans. Am I trivializing all that Memorial Day is about? I am, after all, making light of the physical sacrifices of our soldiers by comparing them with the huge sacrifice of my Savior.
But no, I realize. If anything, I make light of Christ by comparing His sacrifice with that of a soldier.
How can I thank a veteran today? How can I remember the mere men who fought for freedom?
I can thank my veterans by telling them of the freedom that transcends politics. I can remember those who fought by glorifying the one who Won.
Because he who the Son sets free is free indeed.
May I fight, may I sacrifice, may I live and die that His Sacrifice be remembered.