This Friday is November 11, our national holiday for honoring our veterans, both living and deceased. We do well as a nation to remember those who have participated in military exercises on our behalf. We enjoy so many freedoms and privileges that we often take for granted, and our military, over the years, has done much to preserve those freedoms and privileges. Several veterans are members of our congregation, and nearly all of us know of or are related to veterans of one war or another. In this season of giving thanks, please do take the time to thank veterans in person for the gift of their time and resources.
Today, I find myself drawn to the reason Veterans Day came to be observed on November 11 each year. The name “Veterans Day” has been in use since the end of World War II, and the same holiday was observed prior to that war under the label “Armistice Day.” The first World War officially ended on November 11, 1918 – ninety-three years ago this week – and many nations around the world continue to remember the end of this great conflict on the same day.
Why am I drawn to this? Well, you know I enjoy history and the stories that shape who we are today. But my interest here has more to do with the reason for celebrating this holiday. Culturally, we (as Americans) are in a position in our collective history in which we applaud, support, and give thanks for our military forces on a regular basis. For instance, at the beginning of every Great Lakes Loons game, a veteran asks the crowd to rise and sing the national anthem. That is who we are, culturally speaking.
As Christians, however, we should celebrate the historical reasons behind Armistice Day: we should rejoice when nations lay down arms against each other and come, finally, to peace. That’s because our identity as disciples of Jesus is modeled after the life of this Prince of Peace. True, he said that he came not “to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34 NIV). However, he also encouraged us to “be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50 NIV). The overwhelming biblical call is for God’s faithful children to live peacefully: see, for example, James 3:17-18; Hebrews 12:10-14; Ephesians 4:3; and Romans 14:17-19.
Peace is related to righteousness; peace is the way of Christ. True, scripture often speaks of us living peacefully within the church, but it also speaks of living peacefully with everyone. Scripture often speaks of an angry, vengeful God, but it also speaks of the same God applauding the peaceful way of life. Christian history has often applied scripture to justify violent actions, but the higher road, whenever it is possible to be traveled, is peaceful.
This Armistice Day, remember to give thanks for the gift of peace. Then take a few minutes to pray for peace around the world, in war-torn nations (just check the daily news for examples!), in our own nation and cities. As Jeremiah called the Israelites in Babylonian captivity to do, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:7 NIV).