|Wartime memorials, like this in one of Savannah, Georgia's|
squares, give solemn and sad tribute to courageous lives.
With Memorial Day approaching, the counter-culture era soul song of the ‘60s, “War,” came to my mind. Originally sung by the Temptations, and later by other artists, its lyrics not only reflected the thinking of many during that era, but also mirrors our feelings today: “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”
One of the great, recurring tragedies of human history has been the ever-present reality of war – between nations, cultures, and even within nations. The founding of the United States involved the Revolutionary War, and mortal combat has never been far from our collective thinking. The War Between the States, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam war, and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East have been continual reminders of the horrific devastation of warfare.
As some take this Memorial Day to protest wars of every kind and form, this is our opportunity not to commemorate conflict, but to remember those who nobly and bravely sacrificed their lives to protect and preserve the rights and privileges we enjoy today – and often take for granted. Most of us have family members or friends among them, making this observance particularly poignant.
Many whose time on earth ended abruptly on fields and seas of battle were young men and women, with hopes and dreams still unfulfilled. They fought to protect freedom, values and ideals that were threatened by adversarial forces. The conflicts they engaged in may have been distasteful, but their heroic service should never be forgotten.
War, of course, has hardly been an American invention. The annals of time are punctuated by wars waged throughout the world. Sad as it is, warfare has been a permanent part of the sin-scarred human condition. Reading the Bible, we find numerous accounts of war between peoples – often the Israelites in battle against the Philistines, Babylonians, Hittites, Midianites, Amorites, and all the other “ites.”
We read of the exploits of good and bad kings like Saul, David, Ahab and Jehoshaphat, as well as great warriors like Abishai, Nimrod, and a fiercely loyal soldier named Uriah the Hittite. While Uriah was in the heat of battle, King David chose to have a dalliance with his wife, Bathsheba. War, as we know, often isn’t the source of the highest virtues.
As we contemplate the horrors of war, and those who gave their lives in defense of their cause, it’s good to remember that our hope should not be placed in military might. As Psalm 20:7 states, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Proverbs 21:31 adds, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord.”
Yes, war might be good for “absolutely nothing,” as the song says. And it’s often difficult to discern whose “side” God is on. But in the battle against evil, not only externally but also within ourselves, our trust must always be in the Lord, not any human arsenal.