On this Memorial Day, what if we not only remember American soldiers but all the soldiers around the world who have lost their lives? And not only soldiers, but all the innocent civilians caught and killed as well? What if we remember that we are all mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, family, and friends? That we are more family than strangers? What if we took our identity seriously, that we are all made in the image of God? What if we renew our “us vs. them” mindset to instead think “we are like them, and they are like us”?
When I was a little girl, I remember walking through a military cemetery with my daddy, a military man himself, and my mom and three brothers. Hundreds of white, cross-shaped tomb markers sprawled in every direction. I remember feeling uncomfortable, the silence awkward. Even though I was only six or seven, I remember struggling to understand what these crosses represented. My eyebrows knit with confusion, I tugged on my daddy’s pant leg next to me. He looked down at me, and I quietly asked, “Weren’t all these people daddies and brothers?” “Yes, honey, they were, ” he gently replied. I looked away. With tears stinging my eyes, I stifled my cries as my little brain and big heart tried to understand why daddies would kill daddies. I imagined my daddy being killed and how my mom, my brothers, and I would probably never stop crying. What about all the other mommies and brothers and sisters whose daddies were killed? It didn’t make sense to me then, and it doesn’t make sense to me now, even though decades have passed since that visit to the cemetery.
We should mourn the loss of all life. Because our identity and duty is first to Christ, not our nation, we are to give worth and faces and names to our ‘enemies’; therefore, imitating Christ in His love for us, His enemies. And while we crucified Jesus for His scandalous love, His love continues on. What if we believe Jesus for His words and lifestyle and choose to love those our nation seeks to kill? We may lose our lives, but the demonstration of our love would impact someone, somewhere. As paradoxical as the Kingdom of God tends to be, it is often in death that life is born. It is in the moment when all seems lost, we must have faith that love never fails (I Cor 13:8).
So with love firmly rooted within us, what if we used the same selfless bravery to save ‘enemy’ lives instead of taking them? And not just during wartime. What if we used our extra resources to help rebuild the hospitals that have been bombed as a result of war? What if we took our vocations overseas and helped bring education to children who have never seen a school, nor know what one is? What if we invited international students into our homes for holidays? What if we made a lifestyle of welcoming others (neighbors, near and far) in? What if we determined to find more commonalities than differences with those we label as enemies? What if everyone committed to loving and getting to know the foreigners on their block? Then, when wars break out or resume, we no longer see ‘enemies’ but we see our neighbors’ families and friends struggling to keep their families safe. Will we let love, and not fear, guide our actions and behavior to those near and far? May it be so.
Nikole Mitchell is a wife, mother, birth doula, and teacher, who is currently teaching on simple living and loving creation at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.