Abel’s Message on Memorial Day

What can we learn this Memorial Day from humanity’s first casualty of war?

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Today is Memorial Day in the United States of America. For those who in other nations, this is the day when we remember and honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. The day may entail visiting cemeteries and placing flags on the grave-sites of fallen soldiers, thanking those who are still with us who fought, and spending time with family, grateful for the chance to be together because of the sacrifice so many paid for us.

It was not long after Adam and Eve fell and were expelled from Eden that the first war broke out, a civil war between two brothers. Abel was the first casualty of that first war and the sinful nature that entered our genome at the Fall has caused this tragedy to continually repeat itself throughout earth’s bloody history. Just as that first family lost a son in battle, countless families since then have also lost sons and daughters.

That first fallen son, however, is still speaking to us today through the written Word of God. Hebrews 11:4 says:

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

First, Abel speaks to us about the sinfulness of humankind. Adam and Eve fell in Genesis 3, and just one chapter later in Genesis 4, violence had broken out. Sin is the ultimate problem in society and attempts to remedy society apart from this knowledge—whether by Skinner’s “behavior modification,” Rogers’s “parroting of feelings,” or the other unbiblical ideas rampant in psychology—will always fail. The fact is, we are all sinners (Rom 3:10-23) and this is the reason for all war, oppression, and greed. The only remedy is a change of heart by faith in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), the faith by which Abel was reckoned righteous.

Second, Abel speaks to us of the shortness of life; he was a young man when he died. Although 70 to 80 years is still normative, the Psalmist asks the Lord, “Teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90:10, 12). Only the Lord, Jesus Christ, offers eternal life (John 3:16; 5:24). Are you prepared for eternity?

Third, Abel speaks to us of salvation through faith. Although he was young, he was ready to meet his Lord. Abel brought his sacrifice by faith (Hebrews 11:4); it had nothing to do with the nature of the offering as to why Abel’s was accepted and Cain’s was rejected. Abel had faith while Cain lacked faith. There is no other way apart from faith for anyone to approach God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:1). We must lay ourselves on the altar in faith each day as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).

Fourth, Abel speaks to us of the span of a righteous life. The length of a faithful life to the Lord is not limited to physical death; heroes of faith continue to influence long after they are with the Lord. Who do you know whose impact for Christ has remained? What are you doing by faith that will endure? Is there anything that will not be burnt up when you stand before your Master to give an account for the deeds you have done? (1 Corinthians 3:10-18).

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