Remembering the Future

It's Memorial Day -- a time of recalling the sacrifices of those who have defended our most precious freedoms. And we are right to pause and 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. Most of us react in 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 that peace never really lasts for 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, 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 to 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 writes, 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 that is a reflection of the peace which is to come.


Chuck Colson



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