Memorial Day dates back in some form to 1868. The holiday honors those who died in wars for America. There is a deeper truth in the day which we do well to honor. Here is the powerful truth about Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is not about death, but life.
Abraham Lincoln understood the powerful truth of honoring our dead by continuing the fight for freedom. Traveling by train to Gettysburg, Lincoln was sick while he scribbled a few notes. The main speaker at Gettysburg spoke for two hours before Lincoln rose and in two minutes delivered one of the most elegant speeches of all time. We know it as the Gettysburg Address. At the time it was listed as simply a few remarks by the President.
Lincoln expressed the heart of Memorial Day in this way:
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.
We all love a day off. A day to barbecue and kick off our summer. But we should take a moment to honor our fallen heroes. The freedom they fought for must continue to be fought for by each generation. Lincoln is a powerful example of someone who gave the last full measure of devotion in the cause of freedom.
We must continue to pursue freedom which is only ever achieved by encouraging the God-given potential of every person. Wherever we see injustice we must speak out against such injustice. Wherever we see the abuse of power, we must be vigilant so that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
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The last full measure of devotion
Memorial Day must be more than a day to honor the dead. Truly honoring our fallen heroes means living to protect the ideal of equality under law.
Today we barely have time to think about Memorial Day. The same is true of our critical freedoms. 1 in 3 Americans cannot afford an attorney. They are unable to access justice. The 2018 Rule of Law Index ranks us 97th out of 113 nations for providing affordable access to justice. That should not be.
The importance of lawyers in providing justice for all
A couple of weeks ago the American Bar Association released a Supporting Justice report on the pro bono work of America’s lawyers. Over 47,000 attorneys in 24 states were surveyed. 1 in 5 over the course of their entire career had never done any pro bono work. Less than half performed any work in the year surveyed.
As with many fields there are a small percentage of lawyers doing amazing work to make justice accessible to all. Lawyers indicated they would serve more if asked by a legal aid, judge or other attorney. Providing advice, document help and interviewing clients tops the list for wanting to help. Lawyers actually want to help people in need, see it as an ethical duty, but are challenged with time demands.
We need to encourage lawyers to see themselves as agents of justice. They stand in the justice gap and by virtue of a unique license have a unique responsibility to make justice for all possible. Legal ministry allows them to live out their God-given gifts in service to the least of these. The time is limited, help is available, and every Christian lawyer is capable of serving. Serving four hours once a month is hardly comparable to the service of fallen heroes, but it does advance the cause for which they died.
Let Memorial Day be about more than the beginning of summer. Let it be the beginning of a renewed commitment. May this nation have a new birth of freedom in liberty and justice for all.
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