May 312017
 

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

This past Monday we observed Memorial Day.  It is a day where we remember all those who died in war while serving our country in the military.

I am not sure where to glean the “official” military casualty counts for every war and skirmish in which the United States has been involved, but the following counts are recorded on Wikipedia:

Civil War (Union & Confederate)     750,000

World War II                                     405,399

World War I                                      116,516

Vietnam War                                      58,209

Korean War                                        36,516

American Revolutionary War             25,000

War of 1812                                       15,000

Mexican-American War                      13,283

Iraq War                                               4,497

Philippine-American War                     4,196

Spanish-American War                        2,446

Afghanistan War                                  2,356

Other smaller wars and skirmishes collectively account for thousands of more deaths.

More than one million souls have lost their lives fighting to protect their fellow man in our country and to preserve the freedoms with which we have been blessed.  Those who have been wounded in war would number more than another million. Countless others have suffered PTSD and other conditions and afflictions after their calls of duty, many carrying these harrowing ailments to their graves.

Within and without Christendom, there is much debate as to the morality of the wars that our country has engaged in, some with a hotter focus on them than others.  Some believe most, if not every war that we have engaged in has been wrong in some manner or another.  Additionally, some within this group believe that engaging in war itself, for any reason, is wrong.  In the Christian world, there can also sometimes be some delineation between what the secular government is allowed to do and what Christians can participate in in regards to the military and law enforcement.

I am not writing here to give an apologetic for or against the wars the United States has involved itself in, or for or against war, itself, or for or against Christian participation in combat.  Those things have been and will continue to be vigorously debated with legitimate arguments on all sides of the issues.  There are plenty of good people who think differently on these things.

Rather, I want to recognize a genuine encompassing motive shared by most, if not all, of those who have served in the military. That is they are willing to risk their lives for their country and all who live within it.  And as seen from the numbers listed before, more than one million in this country have seen that risk come to bear.  No greater love than that shown by those who would lay down their lives for their friends.

Yes, from some aspects and circumstances, there can be question as to whether or not those who serve in the military should be doing so, with a specific focus for us on those who are Christians.  And yes, we can question other motives some may have in in entering the military or wanting to fight in war, and some of their accompanying actions in such.  Certainly not all motives are pure, and some can possibly be quite dark.  And then there is the aspect that can be questioned on a whole different level of those who have been made to serve unwillingly, or close to unwillingly.  But for those who have freely chosen to serve, we cannot question their great virtue of being willing to die for others.

We will often castigate here those who use the guise of “ministry” to cover for their own insidious motives of greed and personal gain and hiding of sin.  Where on the surface it’s made to look to be all about God’s glory, but underneath the motives are rotten and it’s really so much about the glory and gratification of the individual or individuals.  Where there is a willingness to lay down the lives of others in order to prosper in their own.  (Maybe not literal life and death of others’ lives, but manners that can and do have significant impacts on their lives.)

Conversely, it is restorative to reflect upon the brave men and women who voluntarily risk their own life for others, more than a million who have ended up paying the price for doing so.  Regardless of how we may personally think and feel about the wars of this country or war as a whole, may we remember those who have sacrificed and given their lives for the benefit of others. 

They couldn’t have given anything greater.        

  8 Responses to “Kevin’s Conversations: The Greater Love”

  1. Good word.

  2. Looking at the figures above, I am reminded of how poorly educated in American history I assume most of us are, and God only knows our kids today. I confess to not knowing very much about several of the smaller wars our country has fought in over our relatively brief history. History is a great teacher.

    Thank you, Kevin, for this article.

  3. 620,000 in The Civil War. From where does the 750,000 figure come?

  4. New York Times April 2012:
    “For 110 years, the numbers stood as gospel: 618,222 men died in the Civil War, 360,222 from the North and 258,000 from the South — by far the greatest toll of any war in American history.

    But new research shows that the numbers were far too low.

    By combing through newly digitized census data from the 19th century, J. David Hacker, a demographic historian from Binghamton University in New York, has recalculated the death toll and increased it by more than 20 percent — to 750,000……”

    with no intent to justify slavery, i have long thought that the debt to those slaves has been paid in full

  5. maybe it’s the mom in me, but all those beautiful young lives blown apart and mangled in these wars are building a special hell in eternity for the haters, the weak, greedy leaders, looking for conquests, who think they are strong, but they are not

    FWIW – taking nothing away from what has been so well expressed in Kevin’s post today, i think the anonymous men and women of integrity who grind out their days in difficult circumstances doing the right thing as best they understand it with little or no reward are just as heroic…

    to say nothing of those who’ve chosen service to the Lord working diligently with little or no recognition or reward this side of heaven… there’ll be some celebrity pastor shoe-shine boys in Eternity, i suspect – dunno

    Kevin’s got me thinking again … and pontificating … again 🙂

  6. Thanks, Josh, Jean, & Em.

    New Victor: My numbers all came from Wikipedia. Em (or John 20:29) posted a more detailed explanation from where they apparently came from. – Thanks, Em.

    “there’ll be some celebrity pastor shoe-shine boys in Eternity, i suspect ” – Even though there will be no more sin in eternity, part of me hopes we’ll still be able to get a good laugh at that when we see it. 🙂

  7. #4 with no intent to justify slavery,

    Well, you’re doing better than quite a few “Christians” in the Civil War era.

    Just goes to show — everybody thinks their interpretation of the Bible is the “right one.”
    Culture and the influence of others, especially those in authority, are much more a factor than we might think.

    “Christians on all sides agreed that the Bible was authoritative, their interpretations of slavery in Scripture led to a full-blown theological crisis.”

    https://www.amazon.com/Theological-Crisis-Steven-Janice-Lectures/dp/1469621819/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1496260912&sr=8-5&keywords=mark+noll

  8. Anon, slavery, like war is a fact of life – seems they’ve always been and will be…

    IMV…
    the Bible is not about reforming mankind… while implying that these are part of the curse, it neither justifies slavery, nor war, nor condemns them as such…
    it does give the reader who believes the Book instructions on conducting their lives thru such situations… IMV – the preachers may not agree – dunno

    but by now, it is pretty clear that the human race will grab justification for all their inclinations wherever they can – make up a religion to suit them or distort the true Faith… looking at it honestly, there is an evil in the human race that knows no color and, given the chance will be as cruel as possible to their fellow man…

    you mention the “Christians” of the Civil War era… i have some knowledge of that after doing some research on family – i had a Quaker great grandmother involved in the movement to educate the “negro” both during and after the war, seeing them as underprivileged – her husband saw the them as children that needed protection and guidance, not giving them credit as intellectual equals… the great grandparents worked it out… and finally my great grandmother has finally been proven correct – it gave me some great material for dialog between them when i wrote a history of my family for our children

    Reconstruction, for a number of reasons, set the stage for a period in U.S. history that was in my view a much deeper evil than the slavery that preceded it

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