Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.
HEADQUARTERS GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
General Orders No.11,
Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868
1. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from his honor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.
2. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
3. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.
By order of
JOHN A. LOGAN,
Agapaõ is one of four Greek verbs meaning “to love.” In secular Greek, especially before the time of Christ, it was a colorless word without any great depth of meaning. Perhaps because of its neutrality of meaning the biblical writers picked agapaõ to describe many forms of human love (e.g., husband and wife; Eph. 5.25, 28, 33) and, most importantly, God’s undeserved love for the unlovely.
A biblical definition of love begins with God, never with us (1 John 4.9–10). God is love itself; it’s His character that defines love. And because He is love (1 John 4.8, using the related noun agapê), He acts with love toward an undeserving world (John 3.16; 1 John 3.1, 16) to save them from their sins and reconcile them to Himself (Rom. 5.8). The pure and perfect love of God is typified in the love relationship between God the Father and God the Son, which Jesus shows to His disciples (John 17.26).
In response, we are to love God. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4.7–8).
– Bill Mounce
Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary
of Old and New Testament Words