On the 8th May we remembered VE day. 75 years have passed since the announcement from Winston Churchill that the war in Europe had come to an end with the surrender of Nazi Germany.
War is a terrible thing, both for those involved in the fighting and for those who wait for them to return home, yet in the case of World War 2 most people would perhaps accept that it was a necessary war for the Allies to fight. It wasn’t simply a territorial or religious dispute between rival powers. There was a genuine need to prevent the genocidal ambitions of a truly evil regime.
While we hope and pray that World War 3 will never occur, I have read that the days immediately following the end of World War 2 were the only time in the last 75 years in which there wasn’t a major war going on somewhere in the world.
May it be that days like the 8th May 1945 help us all to reflect on the need for peace and forgiveness in our world.
Why do wars occur? Why are so many human beings ready to see their fellow humans as the enemy and enter into deadly conflict against them?
According to the Bible there is another war going on, one that is constantly being fought, yet on a completely different level. There are no guns or bombs or tanks being used in this war.
Here is how it is described by three early Christian leaders, Paul (twice), James and Peter:
So I say, walk by the spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit, and the spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. (Galatians 5:16-17)
For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the spirit. For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)
Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. (James 4:1-2)
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)
There is a war going on inside each one of us, a war between the spirit and the flesh.
What does that mean? It means that every person who has heard God’s message feels conflicting desires to, on one hand, follow the spirit and practice virtues such as kindness and self-sacrifice, or on the other hand, follow the flesh and pursue self-interest.
For most of us, this is an ongoing battle. Sometimes we listen to the spirit, sometimes we listen to the flesh. The battle within us moves in one direction then the other.
For some people there is no battle at all because every thought or decision is driven by the flesh and made on the basis of self-interest at the expense of others. When people who think like this rise into positions of power, as they did in Nazi Germany, terrible things happen in our world.
There was only ever one person who won the war inside himself by choosing the spirit and rejecting the flesh every time. That person was Jesus.
God has promised us that because of what Jesus did, our own failure to win that war within ourselves won’t deny us the gift of eternal life. He will consider Jesus’ victory to have counted for all those who put their faith in him and who are willing to repent of the times when they followed the flesh and self-interest.
The war against the evil inside human hearts has already been won. The only question now is who is going to join themselves with the man who won it.