Friday, July 7, 2017

The Wars of Man

Recently I watched a series of documentaries detailing the events that led to and that eventually brought to an end World War II. The very first thing that captures your attention, is the unspeakable carnage that the war brought to the peoples of the world, especially in Europe and Asia. By the most accurate estimates, nearly 70 million people lost their lives in a war which was unleashed by the maniacal delusions of Adolf Hitler and the imperial designs of Japan and Italy. For more than a decade, most of the peoples of the world were embroiled in a war that consumed the better part of a whole generation of young men. Men who in most cases had only begun to live before they met their demise.

I've often wondered what it would have been like for those who had to confront enemies in battle and civilians who were caught in the middle. We all like to think that we would have been different than those who gave in to their basest instincts. We like to believe that we would have been merciful, benign and compassionate. No doubt many in the war were so. But war is one of those things that all too easily brings to the surface resentments and feelings of vengeance that are hard to control. Men, regardless of how "good" they may be, all have within them the capability to be murderous and savage. We all are, in the words of the apostle Paul among the "none who seek after God" (Romans 3:11).

World War II is one of those events in the history of man that shows in stark relief, the effects that the evil that control men can have when God's restraining hand is taken out of the way. There are those, especially unbelievers, who would look upon such events as an aberration. Furthermore, many believe that there cannot be a God if such suffering is allowed to exist. Suffering is perhaps the most common human condition atheists point to, to buttress their belief that there is no God. However, human suffering shows what man can do without God. It is not an absence of God that causes such suffering, it is the evil that is within every heart, the evil that wishes to impose itself on those around it; the darkness that tries to extinguish the light that the Son of God brought into the world (John 1:5ff).

The war finally came to an end when two atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese home islands. Needless to say even then, after years of savage war, war which in many cases killed tens of millions of civilians through fire bombings and other similar actions, the atomic bombings were extremely controversial. The idea that cities would be vaporized instantly was, understandably, hard to stomach. But again, we who have the benefit of hindsight try to convince ourselves that we would have been more "humane."

There are many lessons that can be learned from this worldwide conflagration. Unfortunately, man's inherent evil has made it impossible to extinguish war. During the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri, General MacArthur expressed the hopes of the entire world when he said: "From this solemn occasion, a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past. A world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice." But just five years later, in Korea, a good part of the world was at war again. That would be followed by Vietnam, the "wars of liberation" that afflicted the globe throughout most of the Cold War and more.

As we look on the landscape today, war continues to ravage many a nation. In the Middle East Syria, Iraq, Turkey and a number of other nations are caught in a quagmire that has no end in sight. Africa has been a virtual war zone for centuries. And even those areas of the world that find themselves at "peace," are nevertheless caught in social wars that seek to define whether society will retain a semblance of religious piety or whether it will become a completely secular wasteland (see: France).

As I watched and listened to the actions taken by one side and the other, the thought that inevitably came to mind was "for what?" All that death, all that destruction and all for what? But when you have the biblical worldview, you understand why these things happen over and over again. Without Christ, they cannot help but happen. The Scriptures declare that the devil was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). It is no surprise, then, that his children will also be so. It is only through the mercy of God, that we can be released and freed from the grip that evil has on our hearts. Through the blood of Christ, God has freed us from slavery to sin and has set us on the Rock (John 8:36). Praise be to His name!



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