“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.