In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.—Philippians 2:5-7

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.—2 Timothy 2:3,4

Today is Veteran’s Day.  Today we celebrate people who have served in our military, defending the freedom we enjoy here in one of the greatest and most privileged nations in the history of the world.

My grandfather was a veteran.  He served in the Army in World War 2 in both Europe and the western Pacific.  I still have the machete he was issued for hacking through the jungles of the Philippines.  He was also born on November 11th.  He used to joke that the banks and post office were closed in honor of his birthday.  But then he explained the real reason:  that soldiers keep us safe and protect our freedoms, and deserve to be honored.

Soldiers are interesting, because they give up the very thing they are fighting for.  If a nation is going to be free, it needs soldiers who will set aside their freedoms for the sake of others.  Soldiers live in barracks and don’t get to choose what they eat for dinner, so others can have comfortable homes and enjoy meals with their loved ones.  Soldiers serve in a hierarchy in which the people above them get to tell them what to do.  They take orders and submit to their commanding officers.  They do this so civilians like us can boast that “It’s a free country and no one can tell me what to do.”  Most of us bristle at words like “submit,” “obey,” and “command,” but we are grateful that our soldiers understand the importance of these words.

Freedom is one of our nation’s highest values.  Our country was founded on the principle that people should be free.  And it was founded by people who believed in that principle so deeply that they gave up their lives.  They devoted themselves to a cause that cost them dearly, when they would rather have been home with their families, growing crops and enjoying peace and quiet.  George Washington was a retired war hero when he was asked to become the commander of the Colonial Army, and he took the position reluctantly, because he loved his family and his farm.  Then the war was won, and he went back home, and a few years later he was asked to leave his farm again to serve as our first president.  He knew it was the right thing, that it was what the new nation needed, so he said yes, laid down his preferences, and served.  If his own freedom had been his highest priority, we might never have become the nation we are today.

In other words, soldiers defend our freedom, but they are also the proof that freedom should not be our highest value.  Service is better.  Sacrifice is better.  The last year and a half of turmoil in our country have made it clear that freedom is still very much a part of the DNA of this country.  When we feel our freedoms are being threatened, we rise up to challenge that threat.  And rightly so.  Freedom is important.  But it’s less important than service and sacrifice.  

At least, that’s what Jesus thought.  Like a good soldier, Jesus laid down his life so others could be free.  In the face of death, He submitted to the will of His Father.  In doing so, He showed how important it was to Him that we were set free from sin and death.  But He also showed us the best use of freedom:  with His freedom, he voluntarily humbled Himself, left heaven, and offered Himself in service to others.  Now He calls us to do the same.  Today as we celebrate our veterans, let’s remember not just to be grateful for them, but to imitate them.  Who are the people around you God is calling you to serve?  You may have to give up some of your rights or preferences to do it.  And there is no better use of your freedom than that.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.—Galatians 5:13

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