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Why we all need Veterans Day this year

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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While it’s never a bad time to reflect on those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation, it seems almost providential that Veterans Day falls a mere three days after the most vitriolic and divisive presidential election in recent memory. The rhetoric and hatred that characterized so much of that election process revealed wounds that existed long before the debates and negative ads began. We have problems in America, problems that were never going to be solved by one candidate or the other. In order for healing to occur, we must address the failings of our past and the very real pain felt by so many, but we must do so without losing sight of the things that unite us. Veterans Day offers us the chance to do just that.

There is perhaps no more diverse group of people than our military; men and women of all racial, social, religious, and economic backgrounds united in the belief that this country, despite its myriad of faults, is worth risking their lives to defend. November 11th is a day set aside for the specific purpose of reflecting on and showing our appreciation for their service and willingness to make that sacrifice. If we truly want to honor our veterans, then perhaps the best way is to take a more balanced approach to how we see this country.

America has always been a truly great yet equally flawed nation, and it likely always will be. As a result, we are tempted to focus on one end of the spectrum or the other, to act as though there is nothing wrong or as though there is nothing right. Both views make one guilty of the same mistake. The better, yet often more difficult, path is to embrace the middle ground that says we are neither the sum of our failings nor of our successes, but rather a little bit of both.

God is in the business of using imperfect people to accomplish his perfect will. He has done that since the fall and will continue to do it until Christ returns. Those who did the most for the kingdom throughout the church’s history were those who were able to balance their love of God’s people with the knowledge that change, oftentimes drastic change, was needed. It’s largely the same with our nation. That’s not to equate America with the kingdom of God, as the same could and should be true of all countries where committed followers of Christ reside. Rather it’s to demonstrate that true patriotism doesn’t require a false understanding of our nation. Just as God loves us too much to leave us in our sin, we should love our country enough to address its faults without losing sight of the things that make it great.

So this Veterans Day, take time to appreciate those who have risked so much in the belief that this country was worthy of their sacrifice, but do so with the understanding that what they defended was no one political party or social demographic’s version of America but rather the idea of what this nation could become. We haven’t lived up to that idea very well lately. Maybe this Veteran’s Day can be a chance to start heading in the right direction. Will you set aside some time today to pray and ask God for his wisdom and guidance in doing your part?