Hi, I’m John Stonestreet. Today as we honor the sacrifices of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen, let’s listen to Chuck Colson’s Memorial Day BreakPoint broadcast from May of 2001.
It’s Memorial Day — a time of recalling the sacrifices of those who have defended our most precious freedoms. And we’re right to pause and to reflect on those brave men and women willing to give of themselves in such a noble cause. But it’s also important to think about how our longing for permanent peace — unattainable in this world — points us toward a world in which it is possible.
This longing was illustrated by two teenage boys I know. The older boy received, for his fifteenth birthday, a DVD player. He was allowed to pick several movies to go with it, and he chose nothing but war films: The Patriot, Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, and The Sands of Iwo Jima. Over the next few days, he and his brother were engrossed in the action, cheering whenever the good guys finally whipped the bad guys, and when peace broke out.
Now most of us react exactly the same way to real life wars. Whenever we hear of a long, bloody battle ending somewhere in the world, we celebrate, heave a sigh of relief, and hope that maybe this time peace will last. This was especially true in the wake of the great world wars in the last century. Remember the “war to end all wars” and the “war to make the world safe for democracy”? After World War I peace lasted a scant twenty years. Many wars broke out after World War II. And despite the promises of politicians, we know in our hearts peace never really lasts that long.
Which leads to an interesting question: Why is it that humans are apparently designed to desire good and noble things we cannot possibly have?
Considering this question, the Christian apologist C. S. Lewis came to a fascinating conclusion. If our deepest desires cannot be satisfied in this world, he wrote, then we must have been made for another world. This truth was one of the factors that led to Lewis’s conversion to Christianity.
The Scriptures confirm that we are designed for a different world, and they urge us to focus on the world which is yet to come. As Paul advised the Colossians, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).
Sadly, our inner longing for the good guys to win, for true peace and justice, as those two boys showed when they watched those films, has often led to tragic efforts to obtain them on earth, including dangerous utopian schemes that ultimately destroyed millions of lives. And that’s why it’s so vitally important that our children understand where these longings come from.
We need to teach our kids that while we should certainly fight for justice and freedom here on earth, we must do so in the knowledge that our true desire for peace and justice will only be satisfied ultimately in heaven. As we celebrate this Memorial Day, there’ll be no shortage of classic war films on TV. If your kids decide to watch one, help them understand why we like such movies: because God designed us to hunger for a world where there’s lasting peace.
One day, as the prophet Isaiah wrote, men will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, [and] neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Until then, however, we honor those who fought our wars and sacrificed for a peace that is transitory, but it’s a reflection of the peace which is to come.
(This commentary was originally aired on May 28, 2001).
Memorial Day – Next Steps
As the late Chuck Colson said, we should all be grateful for the men and women who risk their lives for our freedom; we celebrate their bravery. Why not watch one of the great war movies being aired Memorial Day weekend? Then start a discussion about why, despite our best efforts, peace on Earth is fleeting, and point out where the only place is that we’ll truly experience lasting peace.
A History of Memorial Day
How It Began
Two-Minute Warning: Memorial Day and the Civil War
Chuck Colson | The Colson Center | May 25, 2011
American Federalism and the Civil War
Ludwig von Mises Institute | March 29, 2010
This Week on BreakPoint: Christianity and the Civil War (Complete List of Resources)
The Point Blog | May 25, 2011