These are not my campaign medals. They are my late Grandfather’s. He left them to me in his will. Remembrance Sunday for me brings back boyhood memories of watching him parade. Proudly wearing, amongst others, the British Empire Medal, awarded for his military service, fighting insurgency in the jungles of Malaya, and in Yemen during the Aden conflict.
Inherently, I am caught up in the pride and sadness of this important day. I recognise, just as you do, the tragedy of war that can bring tears to many eyes. In a world filled with sin, hatred and evil, warfare is inevitable. It’s human nature to find fault in others and make enemies, especially where democracy and human rights are threatened and exploited. Churchill said, “That having enemies can be a good thing. It means you’ve stood up for something in your life.”
You may not feel entirely comfortable with this. The majority of human beings do not want war. Nevertheless, it is sometimes necessary to prevent even greater evil and the Bible supports arguments both for and against conflict. Christians should not desire war, but I don’t think we can listen to Jesus’ words impartially. He said: “Yes, these things must take place…nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”
01st July 1916 is still the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. It is estimated that on that day, at the Battle of the Somme, 20,000 soldiers were killed. And if you have seen the poppies at the Tower of London, each one representing a person serving this country who died in the Great War, you’ll have an appreciation of the scale of loss. Subsequently, two major world wars, the holocaust of over 6 million Jews, genocide in Rwanda and the Balkans, endless fighting in the Middle East, the rise of ISIS – nearly a century after the end of the Great War – the war that was supposed to end all wars – evil and suffering are on the rise.
Some dates will forever stand out in our memory. Traumatic, painful and upsetting times – like the day 3,000 people perished in the World Trade Centre. Civil war – “kingdom against kingdom” – in Syria has spiraled into the current refugee crisis across Europe. Work has already started on the UK’s first permanent naval base in Bahrain. We need a martial presence where “black gold” is concerned, as we don’t have a lot of it ourselves!
What this epitomizes is that war correspondents will always have jobs. Borders will always need checkpoints. Yet, if the whole world stopped spending money on the military for just eight days – 12 years of free quality education could be provided to every child on the planet. That’s the ideal. But it is not going to happen. We wear our poppies, not to glorify war, but to remember the sacrifices of the past and present – for British servicemen and women are still policing parts of the world. Yet from what we know of history, what we read in today’s media, see on the internet, we know this world will never see lasting peace this side of heaven. The echoes of conflict rumble on in every successive generation. Life is so fragile, war so unstoppable and death so permanent.
Jesus warned His disciples that the Temple would come crashing down. Some forty years after He spoke these words it, along with the entire city of Jerusalem, was destroyed. Subsequently, humanity has been living in the death throes of the current old order. This is just the start of the birth pangs, before the new world of universal peace, that God intends, is born. However, Jesus makes it plain that only God the Father knows when that will be. Nevertheless, we must remain vigilant and we must re-hear these words of the Lord, for Jesus also warns His followers that they will be confronted with persecution and false teaching.
Before He returns there will be “wars and threats of wars”, and “there will be famines and earthquakes”, false messiahs, and love for God will grow cold as “sin will be rampant everywhere.” We are getting ever closer to the time of the ushering in of God’s new age. But in order to get there a terrible time lies ahead. We will be hated all over the world for being Jesus’ followers. Christians right now, to quote the Good Lord, are being arrested, persecuted and killed. “Yet the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached to the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” Therefore, I conclude that we need to be more realistic and try and make sense of the imperfect times in which we live. Wake up and smell the coffee before we can wake up and smell the roses.
The only thing that gives us courage and confidence is the firm hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the promise of eternal life and happiness with God. When the bombs of WW2 flattened Warsaw only one structure remained standing on the city’s main street. It was the British & Foreign Bible Society and on its walls was clearly written, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away.” (Mt.24:35). God is still on the throne. History is not just a series of random events. Even in the darkest times God is in control and working His purposes out in His time, not ours. He will give us sufficient grace, strength and wisdom to face any trial. An old Prudential Insurance Company slogan was “Get a piece of the rock” – but when you’re trusting in Jesus for your security, you have the whole rock!
That is what is relevant to the future of this world. We’ve got to go through the birth pains, but endurance is possible and we will be rewarded, for when the Son of Man returns listen to what will happen:- [Read Isaiah 2:2-5]
The Day of the Lord is the promise of peace. Gone forever will be conflict and division over flags or borders or resources. We will be living in the sort of the world that is at the heart of the gospel…the world Christ died for. So don’t panic, although mankind has failed Almighty God, we can be sure His purposes will always be accomplished. So, this Remembrance Sunday, as we anticipate the prophecies of Scripture it is important to fully appreciate the struggle and sacrifice of those who have died in conflict to secure our freedom. Sadly, in the imperfect present, swords won’t be turned into ploughshares, until the promise of The Lord’s future reign when everyone will live in prosperity when the Prince of Peace will rule over us all. Then, as the prophet Joel states: “The Lord will pity his people and jealously guard the honour of His land.”
And what we do in the meantime is thank God for how much we have, to love Jesus and care for each other, to the look to the future, not to the past, witness God’s grace to this hurting world without fear of upholding our Christian heritage. Again, Joel, says: “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts…Spare your people, Lord! Don’t let your special possession become a joke for unbelievers who say, ‘Has God left them?’”
War does not end war. Despite our forces having a role in restraining evil through peace-keeping operations, we must acknowledge that this does not lead to an end to wars. So, yes the world is full of relentless strife, and disbelief, but also hope, especially as we hold fast our faith. There will be more and more evil and the real battle for peace is the internal one. Fight the good fight of faith as Satan will do anything he can to shut us up. But as dark as this will world will get, it is the fight to trust God rather than to give in to fear, as no wars will ever stop us proclaiming the assurance of salvation. And for this I say, “Blessed be the Word. Love in the Messiah.”