By Chad M. Robichaux –
Force Recon Marine & Afghanistan Veteran
Founder & President – Mighty Oaks Foundation
Is it “Happy Memorial Day” or do we need to tip-toe around celebrating? Am I supposed to be happy or sad? I know it can be confusing, right? This thought is on the minds of many Americans as they celebrate this very special and sacred day in our nation. To many military veterans, Memorial Day is not a day of simply mourning, but a day to celebrate the freedoms earned in battle. So, yes, fire up your grills and celebrate! That is the point of freedom. Just do so knowing that this day is a moment we must also pause and reflect honor to those who paid the ultimate price with their very lives for that freedom.
Over the last seventeen years I have lost a few friends in Afghanistan and Iraq; our freedom purchased with their lives. Each of us might have different freedoms we cherish over others, but the privileges that come with living in the home of the free is BECAUSE of the brave. As a Christian, there is no freedom I hold dearer than for my family and I to freely worship God and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. This is a freedom our heroes have fought, bled, and died for since the first Americans stood for our freedom and independence in 1775 during the American Revolutionary War.
However, the freedom to worship is not common to most of the world and at times we might take for granted how special that right is. While living in freedom it’s easy to forget that for most Christians, persecution is the reality of everyday life. According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world’s population lives without religious freedom. Here are a few facts that may shock you:
- The US State Department reports Christians in over 60 countries face government persecution for their faith.
- Some present day persecution even includes being crucified or burned alive.
- On this very day, it is estimated that over 10 Christians will be murdered for their faith in Christ.
- In an average month, 322 Christians will be killed for their faith and another 772 will be either arrested, enslaved, beaten, raped or sold into sex-slavery, while 214 Christian churches will be destroyed.
As Christians, these truths should challenge you as you reside in the land of the free. You are one of the fortunate 25% of the world that wakes up every day under the blanket of freedom giving you the gift of religious liberties to profess the gospel. While we dress up and carry our Bibles to Sunday service other brave men and women will sneak Bibles into North Korea risking their lives to bring the Bibles to the hopeless. Someone in Nigeria will risk being crucified or burned alive by sharing the story of Jesus because they passionately believe their personal safety and life is not worth caging the truth of the gospel. For Christians, this has been the case for over 2,000 years. Shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, anyone would have faced His same fate by merely mentioning the name of Jesus and for over 2,000 years people have decided that freedom of religion was worth laying down their lives to protect.
In the Book of Acts, we see Peter and John heal a crippled man right outside the front gate of the temple that was home to the Sanhedrin, the same religious leaders who had Jesus arrested and killed. Peter and John didn’t have the same freedoms we have in America today, in fact, healing anyone in the name of Jesus meant imprisonment, torture and likely a death sentence. Still, they healed the man in the face of all opposition, literally on the doorstep of those who could impose such consequences. It took only moments for everyone to start talking and the Sanhedrin to have the temple guards arrest the men to stand a hasty trial inside the temple grounds. As the religious leaders encircled the accused they asked, by what power, or by what name, have you done this?
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “ ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’” (Acts 4:8-11 NIV)
WOW! To the Sanhedrin this was blasphemy…. trial over! Peter looked at the men who had the power to kill him, the same men who he witnessed torture and horribly murder Jesus, and he told them in front of everyone, “This man was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ”. The Bible says, they were amazed at Peter’s boldness and the crowd became excited as they were both moved by the miracle and the courage of Peter. The Sanhedrin didn’t know what to do with them; they actually backed down and tried to tactfully de-escalate the situation to save face.
“(The Sanhedrin)…called Peter and John back in and commanded them never to speak or teach in the name of Jesus again. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”” (vv. 18-20)
The Sanhedrin had to let them go free because everyone was cheering and praising God. That day, 5,000 men (not counting women and children) gave their lives to Christ because one made a decision to be bold and courageous in his faith despite not sharing the freedoms that most reading this blog wake up to every day.
As Americans and as believers of Christ we must not waste our freedoms. We do not face the same oppression Peter faced, but are we truly using our freedom to share Jesus as boldly as we should? We cannot forget the phrase that can never become a simple cliché, “Freedom is not free”. Many of our heroes died to pay its price for you… the ultimate hero who died for your freedom is Jesus Christ. But, like our military heroes, His death had a purpose. So today, let’s not be sad, but joyous in celebration for our freedoms. Let’s not mourn their deaths but live boldly for what they died for.