“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13, KJV
Sacrifice. Most of us know that Memorial day is a holiday created to honor the sacrifice of the service members who gave their lives in defense of our country and our freedom. Most of us also know it is most often celebrated with barbeques and a trip to the local swimming hole, whether that be the pool in your backyard, a lake or the beach with family and friends. Coming from a service oriented family, it’s always been a special day of remembrance for me. Yet, never has it been filled with such poignant meaning as it is today.
Most years, remembrance takes the form of thanking service members, and families of the fallen I may see while out and about, and in recent years, on social media. Pleasantries offered and gratitude expressed, I go about my ritual of enjoying classic barbeque fare and splashing in the ocean. It wasn’t merely the lack of a grill, or a backyard, or a beach that altered my plans this year. My newly renewed faith certainly had something to do with it. With the renewal and revival of my faith has come a deeper understanding and appreciation of the sacrifice Jesus made over two thousand years ago on the cross of Calvary.
This year, in addition to expressing gratitude to service members, I decided to honor God’s love and sacrifice with an act of love for my neighbor. I don’t mean the people who live in the apartments near ours, though I do love them. When Jesus said ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ I don’t believe he spoke of only just those who live in close proximity to us. I believe he was referring to all people of which we are aware. We live in a time of global awareness. To me, this means that people all over the world are our neighbors. And I don’t believe they need to have a permanent address to qualify.
My husband and I may not have the means for me to pick up and leave for Haiti to lend a hand. I may not be able to go on a missions trip to Peru. We may not have the money at the moment to donate to a global faith-based charity. But I usually make too much food for my family, especially on a holiday. Today was no exception; Hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob and Southwestern chopped salad. The Lord has blessed us with an abundance of which we were able to share. So share we did. Immediately after our meal, I boxed up a portion of each item and added two bottles of Powerade, a package of pop-tarts for breakfast tomorrow, a package of granola bars and a can of Pringles chips for snacks.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40, NIV
I enlisted our oldest daughter’s help with this mission. So she and I, parcel of love in tow, headed out in the direction of my husband’s former workplace. There are always men and women along the way, each holding a sign containing an abbreviation of their story. Veteran/Single mother; Homeless/Hungry; Please help; God Bless. Their faces always show more than their signs could ever say. It’s what shines in their eyes that breaks my heart for them every single time I see them. The truth of how much I’ve been given that I don’t deserve is reflected in the tears of gratitude that stream down their faces as I leave.
After driving quite a while, we came across an older man who looked very thin and frail. I knew he was the one God put in our path to help. His sign read: Vietnam Vet; HUNGRY; Anything helps; GOD BLESS. I’m well aware there is always a chance that people are not who and what they say are. But I don’t feel it’s my place to decide who is lying and who isn’t. That’s not what I am commanded to do. I am commanded to love my neighbor as myself. This man is my neighbor, and I choose to love him as Jesus has loved me. It’s that simple. My action was very small. I wish I could have done more. The good news is that every day brings new opportunities to do more, give more, love more.
Friends, I don’t share this story with you as an attempt to boast. My intention is only to encourage others to step out in faith and love their neighbors. Every encounter is an opportunity to spread the Word of God and the love of Jesus. Don’t miss your opportunity out of fear. I’m not encouraging you to be careless, but to live with intention. By all means, please be aware of your surroundings and don’t take unnecessary risks. But don’t let fear stop you from giving of your time, resources and love. For all of these things are gifts from God, given for the purpose of sharing them with others.