Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Biblical Memorial Day Meditation

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.
- Our Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:13)

This Memorial Day I give thanks for the many men who followed the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and gave up their lives for others.

The price these men and their loved ones paid is staggering.  It seems almost too much.  And yet I am thoroughly convinced and willing to unapologetically state that their sacrifice was truly . . .

For a Good Cause

A day may come when our Lord temporarily allows evil forces and governments to dominate the entire planet leaving no safe haven for righteousness and truth until Christ returns.  But that day has not yet come.  Over the last 75 years, God has three times used the US military to play a key role in restraining evil forces.  These three cases have the following in common:

1.  Evil forces took over some parts of the world.
2.  These evil forces were extremely cruel and brought immense suffering wherever they gained power.
3.  The evil governments were responsible for the widespread persecution of Christians, and in at least two out of three cases, of Jews.
4.  These evil forces were seriously intent on literally taking over the world and they made massive efforts, with some success, in that direction. They brought warfare, death, and destruction to many parts of the world.
5.  God was pleased to use the US military and our allies to stop them in the first two cases, and to restrain them in a still ongoing war in the third.

The First Evil:  Fascism

The first of these three evils was fascism in Japan and Nazi Germany.

After fascist governments took over all of Europe except for courageous England, and also conquered parts of Africa, and much of the Pacific, the US military and our allies sacrificed many lives to defeat this evil.

Only as Europe was liberated did we really understand just how dark these evil forces were . . .

The Second Evil:  Communism

The next great threat was communism, which began to grow in power even as WWII was drawing to a close.  Communist nations consistently used violence and persecution to oppose all belief in God.

Beginning in Russian and China, communism grabbed Eastern Europe and was using warfare and violent revolutions to make gains in Asia and Central America.  With the Cold War came the threat of nuclear warfare.  But while much of the war was “cold”, in places like Korea and Vietnam, it turned into traditional, bloody warfare.

Once again, God graciously used the US military to defeat and restrain this threat (although it still exists on a smaller scale, the threat from Russia is again growing, and the danger of communism could return).

The Third Evil:  Islamic Extremism

The US Military has been ever vigilant and has had little rest.  For even as Communism was waning, a new global threat was growing.  Lacking the military resources to fight a large scale conventional or nuclear war, Islamic extremists have turned to worldwide terrorism as their primary tactic.  They are always seeking weak and unstable nations where they can move in and gain control.

Once again, the men and women of the US Military have been called on to restrain this evil.  This battle is still in progress.

Some of our nation’s sons and daughters continue to pay the ultimate price, as seen earlier this month when Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Keating IV died in combat in Iraq:

Going Broader

While none of us alive today who served in the US military would compare our small sacrifices to those who gave their lives in service, I hope you will bear with me if I share just a couple of personal thoughts related to my own short service in the US Navy (I realize that this would fit more precisely on Veteran’s Day, but it is on my heart now as I write).

For every brave soldier, sailor, marine, and airman who made the ultimate sacrifice there are many others who made smaller, but still real and meaningful, sacrifices to restrain evil in this world and keep at least parts of it free.  They did not lose their lives, but they did give up a portion of their lives.

During my 5 and ½ years in the Navy, I was blessed to serve with some really excellent men on three nuclear submarines:

This was near the end of the Cold War.  The men I served with often worked twelve or more hours a day for weeks at a time even while in port and also spent many months away from their families while out to sea.  I estimate that out of my first four years of marriage to Hope, a cumulative of about two years I was away from home port, and my experience was typical.  While many young men our age were focused on just enjoying life, the men I served with were keeping a secret vigilance to protect our nation, and to some extent our world, from the threats of evil nations and nuclear war.  Our enemies did not hold back from using nuclear weapons because they were nice, they held back because they knew we were there and we would beat them if they challenged us.  The US Navy consistently proved that it dominated the world’s oceans and kept them safe.

So, I thank God for the men who I served with.  And I would like to mention that I am specifically thankful for the senior officers and enlisted men who were patient with young, immature junior officers like I was.

Going Deeper

The external threat to our nation is still real and intense.  And yet it is not the greatest threat we face.  Moral decay threatens to do what Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Islamic terrorists have failed to do.  If we continue on the path of increased sin and sexual immorality which we have been on the last forty years, a day may come when America ceases to be a refuge for righteousness and a light for freedom.  It is only by God’s grace that we have been used in this role up to now.

While government does have a limited role to play in maintaining morality, the only deep, lasting solution to moral decay is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So as you rightly remember the sacrifices of our military this weekend, please also pray for spiritual revival, renewal, and awakening.  By revival, I mean a lot of people loving Jesus a lot more.  That includes a lot of people getting saved, and a lot of people getting set free from sin, and a lot of people serving more and giving more and growing more for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ.

Remember our men who gave their lives for our nation, and remember our Lord Jesus Christ, whose example they were following, and whose sacrifice makes all other sacrifices meaningful.

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

1 comment:

  1. In your reference to the 2nd World War, you mention 'courageous England'. I would just point out that it was the whole of the United Kingdom - England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland - not just England that fought against Nazism. And it should also be noted that a significant number of men from Southern Ireland voluntarily signed up to fight with the British (there was no conscription in Ireland as it was officially 'neutral' during the war).