In the past week we have remembered those who died in the two Great Wars of the 20th century. Remembering those who died is important. The scale of the losses was terrible. In World War I 20 million military personnel and civilians died. In World War II between 40 and 50 million died. It is estimated that more than 200 million people died in wars in the 20th century. There were also many millions who suffered life-changing injuries. Many of the military personnel were young men who were husbands, sons, uncles, nephews, or cousins. Many bereaved wives were left on their own to bring up children and communities lost their best young men.
Wars are a tragic feature of our present world – in Ukraine, Sudan, and Gaza. Although these wars are more local than the World Wars of the last century, the destructive power of modern weapons and their ability to strike targets accurately at great distances and with great force is terrifying. Towns and communities have been reduced to rubble. Many have died; others have lost their homes and possessions and have fled to save their lives. Recent wars have been instigated by evil men motivated by deep hatred and a desire for power. They are indifferent to the suffering of those they attack and even to the lives of their own people. They may escape justice in this life, but they cannot avoid the judgement of Almighty God, before whom all of us must one day stand.
At many Commemorations ceremonies and services, the following words are spoken, “When you go home, tell them of us and say, ‘For your tomorrow we gave our today.’” My wife and I were born after World War II. Both our fathers served in the British army and, thankfully, survived the war. My wife’s father was involved in the D-Day landings in Normandy. He never spoke of the horrific things he had witnessed when he saw many comrades killed within minutes of landing. They, and many others, made the ultimate sacrifice. We are the beneficiaries of their sacrifice and count it a great privilege to remember them.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” He was speaking of his own death when he died on the cross as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” When he died, he took upon himself the penalty our sins deserve and paid the price of our sins in our place. Through him we find peace with God. Countless people from all nations have been inspired by the example of Jesus and have found comfort in the loss of those they loved in times of war.