Remembrance Day is a time when we remember those who have fallen during the wars. Stephen reminds us that there is someone we should remember who fought an even greater battle.
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Remembering the Fallen
My great-grandmother, Mary Delaney, was named the Silver Cross Mother recipient in 1970. She had a ceremony in Ottawa, and got to meet then Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. She was honoured with this award for the contribution her eight children made during the Second World War. All of them, Hudson, Robert, Mary ( my grandmother), Morris, Earl, Jack, Leonard and Walter served in the Canadian forces in some capacity. Morris never made it home, he was wounded in action during the defense of Hong Kong on Christmas Eve 1941, and died eleven days later on January 4, 1942. He’s laid to rest at the Sai Wan Memorial in Hong Kong.
I’m 39 years old, I have never really experienced war except through stories that my grandparents would tell, history books, and news media. It’s hard for me to enter into the reality of a combat zone, having only really seen Hollywood dramatizations, which though they may visually capture the graphic nature of war, the reality of knowing that they are filled with actors playing a part allows us to disengage emotionally when things get too intense. In my opinion, unless you have experienced it firsthand, I don’t think we can ever fully understand what a soldier on the battlefield goes through. And with this comes the understanding that the life I enjoy, the freedoms, the peace, were bought with a price, one that I didn’t have to pay.
Remembering the Fallen on November 11th.
That’s why each year, on November 11th, we pause to remember. Not just the fallen, but those who were willing to fall. Those who made the choice to protect the rights and freedoms not just of Canadians, or North Americans, but of every human around the world, from any earthly foe that would seek to take those rights from them. They went, knowing they may not return.
This Remembrance Day, I find my thoughts drifting between two scenes, the first from the movie Saving Private Ryan, at the end of the film when the Captain is dying, he looks to the soldier that he was charged with protecting until he could be sent home, and for whom he ultimately gave his life to fulfill this charge, and says “earn this”. The only difference is as I pause and reflect on this scene, I don’t see the relieved, battle weary soldier being spoken to, I see myself, and generations now 100 years removed from the First war and more than seventy years removed from the second, and wonder, have we made good on their sacrifice? Have we kept the peace they fought for, have we lived our lives and built our societies and communities in a way that honours the sacrifice they have made? And the sad truth is I’m not sure we have, nor am I sure we can, and I’ll explain that in a few moments.
The other image that has been going through my mind is not from a movie, but rather me trying to imagine the final moments of a fallen soldier, I picture a young man, or perhaps a young woman in modern conflicts, the battle raging around them, too much chaos for anyone to stop and tend to them, or even to be with them as they slip into eternity. Or those like my great uncle Morris, laying in a military hospital in some far away land, perhaps aware that they will never know the outcome of the cause they were willing to give so much for, knowing that they will not experience the freedom they are fighting for. And again, that haunting question, have we, years later, earned this?
I’m led to the sad truth, that the victory that soldiers win on the battlefield is only ever a temporary one. Oh, that’s not to diminish in anyway the things they accomplish. Never would I suggest any futility in what they fought for. Their bravery, courage, fortitude, resolve, nobility of character, and yes, even love, were required at that time, and still are. Because the enemies that were vanquished in the wars fought, were but the minions of a greater foe. Because even now, where peace, hope, justice and love exist, there are those who would seek to take those things away. Because as we pause to reflect and remember, rightly so, those who have fallen in the wars of this world, we too soon neglect to acknowledge that the reason their sacrifice was necessary, is because the world itself has fallen long before. Sin, alive in the world and working in the hearts of all mankind to enslave all men to its power, to fear and to hatred, is what causes these wars to occur, and no matter how many of these earthy powers we put away, another will soon rise up, fueled by the sin of the world, to take their place.
The rights and the freedoms won so valiantly by the men and women of the armed forces, will one day be removed from us, maybe not by force at the hands of an evil and tyrannical government, but by death, for no man can win anything that will last beyond the grave. Death does not allow baggage.
Jesus Who Fought and Won a Far Greater War
So what now then, do we give up? Do we live in hopelessness? May it never be, because as I think of the lonely soldier dying in some forsaken field in Europe, I am reminded of an old chorus that sings;
“Alone, Alone, He bore it all alone. He gave Himself to save His own. He suffered, bled, and died, alone. Alone.”
It speaks of the man, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who has fought and won a far greater war than could ever be won by man. When He took the sin of the world upon Himself, and died to free us from it.
Now this can be difficult to hear. We don’t want to believe that we are sinners. After all, we generally try to be good. But when we look at the Biblical idea of sin, it goes much beyond the things we do, or don’t do. It has to do with how we measure up to God’s standard, to His character. So what is that standard? Well, we find this by reading some verses from the Bible, like the latter part 1 John 4:8 where we read “God is love.” And we can respond to this saying that we can be quite loving, and indeed at times we can. So just how loving does one need to be in order to meet God’s requirement for love? In Colossians 1:21 we can read that we were once alienated from God, and hostile in mind doing evil deeds, in Romans five we are referred to as enemies of God, But Romans 5:8 tells us that God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
I wonder how many of us, as we reflect on those brave soldiers who died for our country, will think with hearts of love for those lost, or those who survived, while wearing the uniform of the other side. Do we think with love and compassion for those who, even in our society now would hurt us, or have done so? Do we care for those whose ideals are opposed to our own? The Lord Jesus Christ did. And this is just one characteristic of God in which we fall short of His glory. I didn’t even need to get into the Ten Commandments where we read about things like lying, covetousness or greed, adultery and unfaithfulness. Now we can, myself included, tend to get up on our high horse and say well, that’s not me, but let’s be honest with ourselves, is there someone who has perhaps hurt us too much, or is just too untrustworthy, for us to risk loving them, are there groups who stand in the way of our goals, or even just believe or practice something that is an offense to us, and we just can’t bring ourselves to show them love? And in our minds we are fully justified in doing so, after all, it’s them that are in the wrong. And maybe they are, but based on what we find in the Bible, it is still sin, still outside the character, nature, and standard of a pure and holy God.
We read also in the Bible, the end result of our sin, is death. This is the penalty for sin, not simply physical death, but an eternity, separated from God, separated from love. But there is hope even in this, as we read in 2 Peter 3:9 that the Lord is patient toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. In Ephesians 2:4-5 we read “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love in which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved”.
This is the victory that was won, that endures even beyond the grave. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, perfect in both humanity and deity, took the punishment of our sin when he died on the cross so that through faith in Him, we can be freed from the penalty of our sin, and by His rising from the grave, we can have everlasting life with Christ in heaven.
Freedom and Peace For Eternity
Our brave men and women of the armed forces were and are willing to sacrifice their lives so that we can have a small taste of freedom and peace here on earth.
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of God was willing to sacrifice his perfect life, so that we could know the fullness of freedom and peace, not just now but for all eternity. John 8:36 tells us “if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Will you accept God’s free gift of salvation today? He has made it available to anyone who wants it, all we have to do is believe. God knows we could never “earn this”, we don’t of ourselves have the appropriate nature to do so. It’s out of love, and grace, He freely provides a way to be released from the curse and penalty of sin.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but shall have everlasting life.”
If you have any questions about something you heard in this broadcast, or wish to know more about Jesus, and His free gift to mankind, please contact us by sending an email to [email protected]
More About Jesus and the Gospels
Stephen March is the Operations Director for FBH International and HopeStreamRadio. He graduated from the Broadcasting Program at Niagara College in 2001, and has previously worked in television production and post-production. Stephen lives in St. Catharines, Ontario, with his wife Corinne and their three children. He serves as an elder at Scottlea Gospel Chapel.
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