It seems there’s a holiday for everything these days, including the military. And while it’s right to honor those who have served our nation, have you ever wondered why we have three different military holidays to do that?
As Memorial Day approaches on Monday, I thought it might be helpful to explore the meaning of this holiday, along with Veteran’s Day and Armed Forces Day.
Three Military Holidays
Memorial Day honors those who died during military service to our nation. Originally known as Decoration Day, we observe Memorial Day on the last Monday in May by remembering all those who died to protect our freedom.
Veterans Day honors those who have previously served in the military. We celebrate Veterans Day annually on November 11, originally known as Armistice Day. The armistice was signed on this day, ending World War I. After World War II, the name of this holiday changed to Veterans Day. Veterans Day reminds us to thank all those who have previously served our nation.
Armed Forces Day celebrates all those who currently serve in the military. We celebrate this holiday annually on the third Saturday of May. It’s a reminder to thank those who are presently serving in all branches of our armed services.
In commemorating these military holidays, do you see broader applications for Christians?
Parallels in the Life of a Christian
The Bible includes several military metaphors to describe the Christian life. Consider the apostle Paul’s military references in the following verses:
Romans 13:12 (NIV) – “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light”
I Corinthians 9:7 (NIV) – “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?”
Ephesians 6:11-17 – “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Philippians 2:25 (NIV) – “…it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier”
I Thessalonians 5:8 (NIV) – “putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”
II Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV) – “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”
Philemon 1:2 (NIV) – “also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier”
In light of the military parallels in the Christian life, we can apply the principles of these three military holidays in our Christian walk:
- Honor those who have died for their faith.
The idea of Christian martyrs seems so distant to our western perspective. Still, depending on the source, it’s estimated that anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 Christians are killed for their faith each year around the world. Even if the lower number is more accurate, the totals are still horrendous.
How are you and I supporting the persecuted church? Do you pray for Christians facing persecution? Are you familiar with the stories of martyred Christians throughout history? Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is a good place to begin to grow in your appreciation for those who have given their lives in the cause of Christ.
- Thank those who had a part in your spiritual development in the past.
Did someone in your life lead you to know Christ? Perhaps another Christian invited you to church or discipled you. Was there a time in your life when another Christian walked alongside you to encourage you?
Take a moment to contact those people and thank them for their investment in your life. Go beyond a text or email. Write them a note or give them a call. After all, you are who you are partly because of the people who took the time to help you grow.
- Express appreciation to those walking beside you today.
Who is currently investing in your life? Your pastor? A Sunday School teacher? A friend who is discipling you? An accountability partner?
When did you last express your appreciation for their influence? Send a card. Make a call. Better yet, pass it on. Find someone else and be that person for them, encouraging them to grow in their faith.
Honor those who have gone before you. Thank those who have invested in you. Appreciate those who are walking beside you. Designated holidays remind us to do these things for our military. Consider this post a gentle reminder to do these same things in your Christian life.