Lest we forget

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 WWI 20 million military personnel and civilians died. In WWII between 40 and 50 million died. 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.

This year we have been reminded again that war is still a terrifying possibility. In the past 9 months it is estimated that in the war in Ukraine there have been 100,000 Ukraine casualties and 100,000 Russian casualties. Many of the Russian military personnel engaged in the conflict with Ukraine don’t want to be there. Their leader doesn’t seem to care how many of his own people die in a totally unjustified war. The Ukrainian military personnel have no option but to defend their country. Between November 2020 and November 2022, it is estimated that 600,000 have died from war-related violence and famine in Tigray in the war with Ethiopia. The population of Tigray is overwhelmingly Christian.

Where can we turn when we are in desperate circumstances fearing we may die? In WWI every British serviceman was issued with his uniform, helmet, boots, and a Bible. Some soldiers’ lives were literally saved by the Bible they kept in their breast pockets. When soldiers were very badly wounded, some read their New Testament as they lay dying. On 1 July 1916, the first day of the battle of the Somme, 19,240 British servicemen died. When their bodies were recovered and buried, many of them were found with the Bible, or New Testament in their hands. When they were in circumstances out of their control, they knew they were in the hands of God.

There are many in heaven now who first put their trust in Jesus to be their Saviour when they were engaged in terrible conflicts. We don’t need to be great Bible students to put our trust in Jesus. We just need to know that out of his great love he died for our sins and rose again to give us hope. He said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The sacrifice of millions of servicemen won the peace the generations living after the war enjoyed. Those who died, and never returned to their homes, say to us, “When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow, we gave our today.”

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