Seventy-five years ago today, the Allies accepted Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces, ending World War II in Europe. This event is known as V-E Day, for Victory in Europe.
Today would have seen large celebrations of gratitude and festivities honoring the living veterans of the war. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced these events to be staged mostly online. Queen Elizabeth II is delivering a televised message. And students in France are doing what they can to honor those who liberated their nation from the Nazi occupation.
They started writing last year to veterans in Britain, thanking them for taking part in the Normandy invasion. Now that the students and the elderly men are living under lockdown, they have been sharing stories about their lives during the pandemic.
One of the veterans had his daughter take videos of him around the house while he identified what he saw so the students could work on their English. He also began studying French so he could talk with them in their language.
His exchanges with the French teenagers “let daylight into this dark time of lockdown,” he said.
What if Hitler had won?
My father fought in World War II, though he was stationed in the South Pacific and did not see action in the European theater. My grandfather, however, fought in World War I and thus contributed directly to winning what was called at the time the “Great War.”
Neither of them would speak of their service. Both witnessed horrific atrocities and paid an emotional price for the rest of their lives.
After thirty trips to Israel, it remains impossible for me to imagine the horrors of the Holocaust. Now imagine a world in which Hitler won the war. Imagine his murderous insanity foisted on Europe and America.
This day reminds us that we owe the soldiers who fought and died to defeat Nazi Germany a debt we can never repay. But we can pay it forward.
When I meet a military veteran, I always make an intentional effort to thank them personally for their sacrifice. Nearly always, they respond by telling me that it was an honor for them to serve.
I will never forget the response of one wounded veteran. He had suffered burns over his face and upper body from an IED in Iraq. He would live for the rest of his life with the scars and pain of his service. When I thanked him for his sacrifice, he shook my hand and said: “Just do what you can to make this a country worth dying for.”
How can we do what he asked us to do?
Do what you can do
Peter warned us: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus described Satan as “a murderer from the beginning” and “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44) who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).
As a result, whenever we encounter murder, lies, theft, and destruction, we can know that our enemy is at work.
We are naïve to believe that there will never be another Hitler, either on the world stage or in our personal relationships. We must therefore pay forward the service of those who fought to defeat Nazi Germany by opposing evil wherever we find it today.
Peter showed us how to respond to our spiritual enemy: “Resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:9). James added: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:7–8).
Imagine a nation in which every person sought holiness by submitting our lives to God and resisting Satan in the power of the Spirit. That would be a nation worth serving.
May it begin with me, and with you.
Pray for what you cannot do
You and I can choose biblical character for ourselves, but we cannot make the same decision for anyone else. However, we can pray for the Spirit of God to spark a spiritual movement that will transform our culture to the glory of God.
It is essential that an individual soldier serve faithfully where he or she is stationed. It is also essential that soldiers serve collectively in unity under the command of their leader.
The most powerful way God’s people across the nation and around the world can serve together is through intercession. The Lord is not bound by time, so he has all of eternity to hear our next prayer. He is not bound by language, so he can hear us in any tongue. And the more collectively we pray, the more we answer Jesus’ prayer for the unity of his family (John 17:23) to the glory of our Lord.
It is interesting that, this year, the National Day of Prayer preceded the seventy-fifth anniversary of VE Day. Out of gratitude for those who have served and those who are defending our country, let’s make today a Day of Prayer for the Nation. Then let’s do the same tomorrow. Let’s honor the sacrifice of those who served and died for our temporal freedom by praying to the One who sacrificed himself for our eternal freedom. (For more, see my article in The Stream, “The Problem With the National Day of Prayer”.)
George Washington observed, “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.”
Let’s be both, to the glory of God.