Thursday, February 24, 2022

A death worth remembering

Every time our fallen veterans are honored in our land of peace and plenty, it strikes me that we aren’t just blessed to have had them fight for our earthly peace. We are also blessed to still be here to remember them. We all instinctively want our lives to matter, so we honor those who died serving our nation and fighting our enemies as we would want to be honored and remembered ourselves. 

But it’s safe to say that this remembering isn’t normative to the human experience. For one thing, the victors are the only soldiers guaranteed that space and opportunity. The conquered face extinction of their earthly identity — the framework out of which that privilege would have arisen. It’s safe to say that more soldiers have died in defeat than in victory, and shrewd conquerors know that allowing a people to honor those that died fighting them is only to foment discontent and rebellion.

So it’s worth meditating for a moment: many millions of people in history made a choice to defend their life, liberty, and happiness using carnal weapons and died in the process, and many of those same ones will never be remembered to any posterity. Our ideas of nobility and courage are always formed by the examples given through records of mighty deeds done and perhaps a few lost causes defended. But to even be recorded for posterity is remarkable, given how many millions more steeled themselves to face death and are utterly forgotten. 

Today there are thousands such men in Ukraine facing certain death, defending the only earthly allegiance they have ever sworn, knowing the futility of it, given that no one on earth will lift a finger to prevent Their downfall. They know not only are they likely die in the coming days, they also won’t be honored for their sacrifice. 

This is man. Glorious as the created image bearer, yet utterly futile in his life lived. Vain man puffs himself up in rage against God and simultaneously proves his futility as he destroys his image. So while I have very strong opinions about the state of world affairs and our nation’s obligations as a realistic force for good, I’m going to be busy praying not as an American citizen. Even as I pray for judgment on the unjust and wicked, I’ll pray even more fervently as a stranger and a pilgrim that all men would be proved liars in the face of the truth of God’s word.

Yes, I will pray for those soldiers doomed in the crucible of national interests, that they may have hope and not despair. But it’s not easy to know what more to pray for in such a time. Yes, pray for the common grace of earthly peace, yet people of faith must always find themselves returning to those things that transcend earthly conflicts, seeing by faith that there has never actually been a time of peace for Christ and his church. That the serpent has ever and always been at war with the seed of the woman and even within the brokenness of nation rising against nation, Christ’s kingdom must still advance. 

Perhaps it’s helpful to remember how maliciously those who killed the Christ tried to ensure that he would be forgotten, like the dozens of insurrectionist leaders who sought to inspire rebellion against Rome and were extinguished like sparks on wet pavement. Instead he lives and reigns and has deigned to have us remember and bear witness to his holiness and glory.
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